Zubiri supports Senate probes on smuggling but list of alleged protectors needs further verification

Published June 29, 2022, 3:35 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said today June 29 that he fully supports the Senate’s investigation into the multi-million-peso smuggling operations but the list of alleged “protectors” needs further verification.

Zubiri echoed Senators Joel Villanueva and Nancy Binay’s sentiment, saying he too could not believe that Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco was in the Senate list of alleged smuggling protectors.

‘’Mayor Toby Tiangco, for instance, is on the list—and I have difficulty believing his inclusion on it, as I have known him for a long time, and I have seen him run after smugglers in Navotas,’’ Zubiri said in a statement released to Senate reporters.

‘’I know him to have spearheaded and supported anti-smuggling task forces, and he has always fought passionately against smuggling, particularly in the fishing industry, so I struggle to believe that he would be a protector of smugglers,’’ he added.

Zubiri, nevertheless, emphasized that he supports the commitment of outgoing Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III to ‘’fighting the rampant agricultural smuggling going on along our borders.’’

‘’Matagal na akong nananawagan sa Department of Agriculture (DA) tungkol dito (I have been calling the attention of the DA and I have repeatedly said that the Senate is ready to give them the legislative support that they need in order to heighten their investigative and preventive efforts against smuggling,’’ he said.

‘’That said, we have to be guided by facts, especially regarding the list of smugglers named in the Committee on the Whole report of the Senate. If we are naming individuals, it is paramount that we verify the facts,’’ he added.

The list of 22 alleged smugglers and smuggling protector were inserted on June 1, the day the Senate went on sine die adjournment, by Sotto in the report of the Senate committee of the Whole on its public hearings on unabated smuggling of agri-fisheries products.

It came from intelligence reports.

In the list were four top officials of the Bureau of Customs and also four ranking DA officials.

Reacting, DA Secretary William Dar issued this statement: ‘’Let the officials named in the report face their accusers, present their respective evidence to disprove the allegations, and defend themselves in the proper courts.