Farmers challenge Marcos to dismantle ‘agri smuggling mafia’

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the list of alleged top smugglers of agricultural products into the country is nothing new and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr should dismantle what it calls the “smuggling mafia” in the agricultural sector.

The KMP said the new president and Department of Agriculture secretary must exercise political will in punishing erring and corrupt government officials involved in large-scale agricultural smuggling as revealed in a recent 63-page Senate Committee report.

Hindi na bago ang listahan. Mga lumang pangalan na dati nang nadadawit sa korapsyon sa importasyon at smuggling ang nasa listahan ng Senate Committee of the Whole Report 649,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

(The list is nothing new. The Senate Committee of the Whole Report 649 consists of old names that figured in the corrupt importation and smuggling in the past.)

Marcos’ first order of business in the department is to stop the rampant smuggling of agricultural produce and reprimand all those involved in large-scale smuggling, the KMP said.

The farmers’ group added the crime must be considered as economic sabotage as defined by Republic Act 10845, the anti-large scale agricultural smuggling law.

 The farmers’ group added that the so-called mafia works in cahoots with agriculture and Bureau of Customs officials, including former agriculture secretary William Dar who it accuses of being accountable for the unending smuggling of agricultural products coming mostly from China.

‘Smugglers and corrupt officials’

The Senate report named the following suspected smugglers and protectors:

Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, BOC deputy commissioner Raniel Ramiro, BOC deputy commissioner for revenue collection and monitoring group Vener Baquiran, BOC director for customs intelligence and investigation service Geofrey Tacio, and Yasser Abbas of the BOC import and assessment division.

Department of Agriculture (DA) officials including Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan of the DA Central Office, Dir. George Culaste of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Eduardo Gongona of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and Laarni Roxas, of BPI – Region 3 (Central Luzon).

The said intelligence list also contained the following names and information: Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco, BFAR products, smuggling protector; David Tan (aka David Bangyan), Cebu, MICP, port of Manila, Batangas; Gerry Teves, meat products, No. 1 smuggler playing in all major ports (i.e. Subic, MICP, POM, Batangas, Cebu); Mayor Jun Diamante, all agri products playing in port of Davao, CDO, Cebu, Subic; Manuel Tan, agri-fishery products playing in Subic, CDO, and Batangas; Jude Logarta, Cebu; Leah Cruz, (aka Luz Cruz and Lilia Matabang Cruz), tagged as “Onion Queen,” DA SPSIC controller/manipulator (i.e. Subic, MICP, CDO); Andy Chua, George Tan, David Bangayan, Paul Teves, Tommy Go, and Wilson Chua.

Customs chief Guerrero denied being a smuggling protector, saying he in fact spearheaded the implementation of reforms in the bureau in the last three years.

In radio interviews, Guerrero lamented that they were not asked to reply before the Senate report was issued and made public.

He added that their accusers should just file charges in court to enable them to reply appropriately.

Senator Imee Marcos, the president’s elder sister, defended Tiangco, saying she knew him to be one of the most active mayors against smuggling.

Immediate past Senate president Vicente Sotto III presented the list to President Marcos prior to the latter’s assumption of office last Thursday.

“I informed him of the results of our investigation,” Sotto announced after their meeting, further advising the President: “Don’t leave anything at the top, if possible from the secretary down to the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.”

In a June 29 interview with Super Radyo dzBB, Sotto also revealed he has submitted the list and the entire report to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Pinadala ko ‘yung kopya sa Ombudsman. Hindi lang ‘yung listahan pinadala ko sa Ombudsman, ‘yung buong committee report. Nandoon iyong rekomendasyon ng buong committee ng Senado, kung sino-sino ang dapat kasuhan. Kumpleto ‘yon,” Sotto said. (I sent a copy to the Ombudsman. I sent the entire committee report, not just the list. It includes the recommendations of the entire committee of the Senate, who must be charged. It’s complete.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)