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Villar/Ejercito bat for stiffer penalties against smuggling of agricultural products

Sen. Cynthia Villar, Senate Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food heard two bills that will declare certain acts of agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage. Smuggling is a crime that not only affects the consumers, it also threatens the livelihood of farmers and fisher folks,” Villar said. She also stressed that the modus operandi of traders who uses cooperatives to smuggle goods into the country will be an act of economic sabotage under the bill.

Senate Bill 2765 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2015 seeks to penalize with a fine of equal to twice the fair value of the smuggled articles and imprisonment of six to twelve years the smuggling of any agricultural commodity or product, whether plant based, animal based, raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock that is available for human or livestock consumption.

Senate Bill 2082 or An Act Declaring Rice Smuggling as Act of Economic Sabotage and, Prescribing Penalties Therefore and for Other Purposes filed by Senator JV Ejercito seeks to address the growing and unresolved cases of rice smuggling in the country by defining the crime as economic sabotage due to its inimical effects on the national interest, economic growth and development.

The two bills include as punishment - a fine equal to the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided; confiscation of smuggled articles; cancellation and revocation of business license, import permits, and other pertinent documents for importation; and perpetual disqualification to import agricultural products.

Economic sabotage is defined as any act or activity which undermines, weakens or renders into disrepute the economic system or viability of the country or tends to bring out such effects and shall include, among others, price manipulation to the prejudice of the public especially in the sale of basic necessities and prime commodities.

Any person who shall import or bring into the Philippines agricultural products, without the required import permit from the implementing agency, or any person who shall import agricultural products by means of fraud or by illegally obtaining the required import permit shall be guilty of the crime of smuggling, including those acts which are within the purview of technical smuggling.

Any person regardless of nationality or citizenship found guilty of engaging in agricultural smuggling, or technical smuggling thereof, of a minimum aggregate amount of P5 million worth of agricultural products or has been found guilty of engaging in agricultural smuggling of rice, or technical smuggling thereof, with a minimum aggregate amount P10 million as valued by the Bureau of Customs, shall be guilty of economic sabotage.

When the offender is a juridical person, criminal liability shall attach to its president, chief operating officer or manager. In addition, the business permit or licenses of the business entity shall be revoked or cancelled.

The following shall be considered as principals to the crime of economic sabotage;

  • Traders who prey on cooperatives and by using their permits for purposes of smuggling;

  • The officers of the cooperatives who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, and allow the unauthorized usage of their import permits for purposes of smuggling;

  • Traders who deliberately use dummy corporations, non-government organizations, associations for purposes of smuggling;

  • The officers of dummy corporations, non-government organizations, associations, who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, allow the unauthorized usage of their import permits for purposes of smuggling and;

  • The broker of violating importers.

Present during the hearing held at Committee Room 2 of the Senate are Mayor Alan Gamilla of Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, Mr. Mel Acio, Manager of Ilocos Norte Agricultural Producers Cooperative, Ms. Margarita Selga of the Garlic Growers Association of Ilocos Norte, Assistant Secretary David Catbagan from DA Livestock, Administrator Renan Dalisay of NFA, Dep. Adm. Ludovico Jarina, Atty. Kristine Bartolome of BFAR, Asst. State Prosecutor DOJ Susan Dacanay, Atty. Cesar Corpuz of Bureau of Customs, Engr. Rosendo So, President, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, Chairman Jesus Arranza of the Federation of Phil. Industries, Chairman Ernesto Ordoñez of the Alyansa Agrikultura, Mr. Herculano Co, Jr. of the Philippine Confederaton of Grains Association, Inc., Mr. Manolet Lamata, Chief, Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization, Mr. Edgardo Lumanog, Deputy Chief, Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization, Mr. Vicente Mercado, Chairman, National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc., Atty. Bong Inciong, United Broilers and Raiser Association, Mr. Larry Yu of Pro-Pork and Mr. Jess Cham, President, Meat Importers and Traders Association, Inc. A technical working group will be called soon in order for the stakeholders to craft and fine-tune the bill to a committee report which will be reported to the plenary.

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