Press Release
April 12, 2022

Pangilinan dares DA official to name agriculture smuggling protectors

VICE-PRESIDENTIAL candidate Senator Francis "Kiko" Panglinan on Tuesday dared an official of the Department of Agriculture to name those who are protecting big smuggling syndicates in the country.

At the continuation of the investigation by the Senate Committee of the Whole on vegetable smuggling, Pangilinan addressed Agriculture Dialogue and Information Network Groups Assistant Secretary Federico Laciste, urging the official to not be afraid to name names.

"Kung ano iyong name na ni-drop, can you please submit to the Senate President's Office as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole so that we get a sense of this all," Pangilinan said.

"Hinihiling namin iyong mga binanggit ninyong pangalan na may politician. Iyon ang listahan at ibigay niyo sa amin. Ang ibinigay niyong listahan, walang pangalan ng politiko e," he added.

Pangilinan challenged the consistency of Laciste's statements today as these run counter to what he previously said in a March 19 dialogue with Benguet farmers and during the senate hearing on March 28.

On both occasions, Laciste was firm in saying that he received several phone calls last year from various high-ranking government officials, including a congressman, telling him to drop the cases against those involved in vegetable smuggling.

But during today's hearing, the official recanted and refused to drop the names of those calling him.

Laciste defended himself, saying he was only overzealous to appease Agot Balanoy of the League of Associations of La Trinidad Vegetable, who earlier said she received threats for speaking about the rampant smuggling in the Cordilleras.

Pangilinan mentioned that Laciste is not to be blamed for changing tunes. But the lawmaker hopes that the government official musters enough courage to tell the truth, especially in front of lawmakers.

"Hindi ko rin kayo masisisi Asec Laciste kung matataas na tao, untouchables, ang mga involved dito kaya kayo rin ay nagdadalawang isip na magsabi ng totoo. I can understand that you are afraid to tell the truth and change the tune of your earlier statement during the dialogue," Pangilinan said.

"If it is because of fear, I will not agree with your changing of tune, but I will understand that you're doing it out of fear. Opportunity na na sabihin ang totoo dito pero kung ikaw din ay nadadala din ng kaba at takot, mauunawaan ko iyon. Pero huwag naman sana tayo umabot sa nagsisinungaling tayo sa harap ng Committee of the Whole ng Senado," he added.

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