Press Release
September 21, 2023


Sen. Chiz Escudero on Wednesday issued fresh calls to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to immediately file criminal cases against hoarders and smugglers of rice, which delay has baffled him since the Marcos administration started its crackdown on suspected cartels of the food staple.

Government authorities have announced major seizures of rice from various warehouses around the country where tons of rice believed to be either smuggled or hoarded were being kept after Malacañang announced that it was putting a cap on the prices of rice.

"A crime definitely took place. And I am wondering why is there a crime but still no criminals at this time?" Escudero asked.

"Kung tutuusin, magtatatlong linggo na ang nakalipas, bakit tila tahimik pa rin ang tungkol sa pagsampa ng kaso?" the veteran legislator added.

At the Senate plenary this afternoon during the interpellation on Senate Bill No. 2432 under Committee Report No. 118 which defines the crimes of agricultural economic sabotage, Escudero manifested his frustration and disappointment regarding the failure of the BOC to file appropriate cases.

"I have yet to hear a name that is responsible for the hoarding of the rice that BOC has raided. And why is it that not a single case has been filed against any individual, much less the disclosure of their names?" Escudero said.

"Sa simpleng pananalita, hindi naman puwedeng may crime pero walang criminal. Sa dami ng ni-raid natin, sa dami ng sinabi nating maling ginagawa pang ho-hoard ng bigas, bakit hanggang ngayon wala pang sinasampahan ng kaso?" he added.

The senator noted that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has already started the distribution of the confiscated smuggled rice yesterday in Zamboanga City to some 3,000 indigent beneficiaries under the administration's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, and yet customs officials appeared to be slow in filing the cases.

The distributed rice was part of the 42,180 bags confiscated by the BOC recently in Zamboanga City whose commercial value was placed at ?44 million.

"Sinimulan nang ipamahagi ang mga nakumpiskang mga bigas. Katunayan na matibay ang ebidensyang illegal nga ang mga ito. Bakit hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring mga pangalan ang mga kriminal at hindi pa rin nasasampahan ng kaso?" Escudero raised.

The senator said that based on published reports, the BOC-Port of Zamboanga has issued an order of forfeiture on Sept. 1 after verification of import documents submitted by the warehouse showed that the subject goods were not covered by the import clearance and were misdeclared.

"Kung tutuusin, magtatatlong linggo na ang nakalipas, bakit tila tahimik pa rin ang tungkol sa pagsampa ng kaso?" he said.

The Bicolano senator further asked the BOC to provide updates on the other cases of alleged rice hoarding and smuggling involving warehouse raids in Bulacan in mid-August that led to the confiscation of rice worth ?505 million.

Last Sept. 17, the customs bureau also announced it raided warehouses in Las Piñas and Cavite that were suspected of containing smuggled rice from Vietnam, Thailand and China, with an estimated value of ?40 million.

He said criminal cases should be filed for violation of Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, which considers smuggling of agricultural products as economic sabotage if it involves "at least P1 million worth of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in their raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation and preservation for the market, or a minimum of P10 million worth of rice, as valued by Bureau of Customs (BoC)."

"Nasabi ko na ito ngunit muli kong ipapaalala sa mga kinauukulan: Hindi tayo dapat nagtatapos sa mga raids lamang. Sampahan na ng kaso ang mga dapat kasuhan," Escudero stressed.

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