Senator Imee Marcos has called for a deeper investigation on the issue of agricultural smuggling that was earlier probed by the Senate Committee of the Whole as well as the prosecution of culprits within the first 100 days of the new administration.
Marcos said the actual filing of cases against smugglers would be the measure of the new administration’s seriousness in curbing the misdeclaration and undervaluation of agricultural imports.
“Illegal imports have pulled down local farmgate prices and discouraged farmers from pursuing their livelihood,” she explained.
The lady lawmaker is the chairwoman of the Senate Economic Affairs Committee in the 18th Congress.
A new set of ranking officials and committee chairmen in the 24-member Senate will be selected in the upcoming 19th Congress that starts on July 25.
Marcos said that cases of smuggling could not be filed in court until the controversy over the list of suspected agricultural smugglers is settled.
“Some people should be on the list, while the inclusion of others is now being argued,” Marcos said of the exchange of words that has ensued between the Senate and officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) regarding the list of 22 persons alleged to be smugglers and smuggling protectors.
The Senate report on agricultural smuggling named 22 persons including officials of the DA and its attached agencies, the Bureau of Customs (BOC), and a local official who has been vocal against the illegal importation of fish.
Former Senate President Vicente Sotto III had said he submitted the committee report to the Ombudsman for investigation after inserting the list in the committee report last June 1, the day the Senate and the House of Representatives adjourned sine die.
“Among all local officials, Navotas mayor Toby Tiangco has taken the toughest stand against smuggling by immediately filing grave charges against notorious syndicates. On the other hand, why have the highest officials in DA been let off the hook?” Marcos asked.
“The economic sabotage of our farmers’ livelihood and the country’s recovery itself won’t stop if the guilty are exempted and the innocent indicted,” the lady senator added.
Marcos also said that the incoming NICA chief, former police general Ricardo De Leon, must at once reconcile the intelligence agency’s actual list of suspected smugglers with what it had submitted to the Senate.