Press Release
August 29, 2012


Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan today issues a challenge to all resource persons appearing before the Senate in an investigation on alleged rice smuggling at the Subic Bay Freeport: Tell the truth, or face contempt charges and be detained.

Now on its fourth week of investigation, the Senate committees on Agriculture and Food, Ways and Means, Trade and Commerce, and Blue Ribbon Committee are conducting an investigation into alleged smuggling of some 420,000 50-kilogram bags of rice, worth almost P500 million, from India into the Philippines.

Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, says that there is no question that the seized rice being investigated in the Senate is meant to be sold in the local markets, adding that what must be determined now is how the system has failed to stop contraband produce from entering the country.

"Ang puno't dulo nito, paano nakapasok sa bansa ang isang regulated na produkto na walang permit, at pagkapasok sa bansa ay gagawan ng paraan para magkaroon ng permit para maging legal ang kalakaran? Nakakabahala ang ganitong palakad," says Pangilinan, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food. "We are losing a valuable source of revenue for the government, and--worse--we are essentially killing the livelihood of our farmers."

Previous hearings have uncovered inconsistencies among the statements of the various resource persons. Some resource persons also failed to attend today's hearing, Earlier today, the Senate investigating committee issued a warrant of arrest against Magdangal Diego Maralit Bayani III of St. Andrews Field Grains and Cereal Trading for refusing to appear in the investigation proceedings. Pangilinan says the committee may also decide on whether they should cite some resource persons for contempt before the next hearing.

"Offhand, we have to study some more the documents that they have presented--there are some show cause documents we have gone through that contradict what was on record. In particular, Cesar Ramirez of Federation of San Miguel Cooperatives and Robson Enterprises contradicts himself after denying on record that he emailed Protik Guha, CEO of Amira Foods, yet saying in his show cause document that he did. We need to send a strong signal that we are serious in this investigation. I am inclined to cite some of the resource persons in contempt. If we need to detain some, even perhaps all, of the resource persons when found lying, we need to do it."

Pangilinan adds that the lack of accountability has contributed greatly in corrupting the system.

"There are glaring loopholes in the system of importation. The government agencies involved--the NFA, BOC, DA, and their attached agencies--must exert serious effort in making the system fool-proof. On top of that, the government must ensure that guilty parties are punished according to the provisions of the law. We must not let these corrupt practices to continue to exist with impunity."

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