by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com
MANILA — THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Task Force on Anti-Rice Hoarding on Monday filed criminal complaints before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against 13 rice traders for allegedly violating Republic Act No. 7581 or The Price Act and other laws that prohibit hoarding and other similar offenses.
DOJ secretary Raul Gonzalez, in an interview, said that he immediately directed the Bureau of Immigrations (BI) to put in its hold-departure the 13 persons to prevent them from leaving the country.
Those charged were identified as Anthony Choi Angeles, Romeo Mariano, Jr., Eleonor Rodriguez, Meynardo Guevarra, Francisco Dio, Arnel Lagonoy, Mary Ann Magno, Geonell Vin Centeno, Delia Barreda, Sofia Guzman, Prestifero Prado, Leonides Manalo and Lydia Supremido.
A preliminary investigation will be conducted by the DOJ Anti-Hoarding Task Force headed by Senior State Prosecutor Roberto Lao to determine whether there is a probable cause to pursue the filing of criminal charges against them before the court.
The rice traders are facing charges of violation of the provisions of RA 7581 which prohibit illegal price manipulation through the commission of hoarding, cornering or hoarding of grain, unauthorized possession of government rice and diversion of government stocks by retailers authorized to sell government stocks, unauthorized re-bagging or re-sacking of government rice in commercial sacks, selling or lending government stocks to another grains businessman, lack of required signboard and lack of guaranty bon and fire insurance.
Gonzalez stressed that the filling of charges against the 13 rice traders only proves the government’s no-nonsense campaign to address the perceived rich shortage problem.
Gonzalez also assures the public that the government is doing all it can to alleviate the rice problem, adding that the country has sufficient rice stocks to last for 57 days.
He added that steps are being made to insure that the country’s rice reserve will be increased in the coming days.
The 13 rice traders may be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years and may be required to pay P2 million fine if convicted.
The DOJ secretary also said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is working very hard to insure that the country will have sufficient rice for all its citizens.
He said the government is now talking with the governments of Thailand and Vietnam in order to get more supply of rice.
The Philippines recently imported some 1.5 million metric tons of rice from Vietnam recently even as the United States promised to supply the country with cheap rice to augment its reserves.
This developed as the Bureau of Customs also lodged with the DOJ five cases involving illegal smuggling of wheat flour, unlawful importation of flour, illegal shipment of onions and falsification of business permit.
BOC Commissioner Napoleon Morales personally filed the complaints before the office of Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno.
The agency filed two cases against the directors and officers Rubills International Inc. for undervaluation, underweight and lack of necessary import permit from the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) on their shipments of wheat flour valued approximately at P30. 8 million with corresponding duties and taxes of P2.59 million.
The BOC identified these officers as Francisco Billones, Angel Deray, Mary Lucille Billones, Susana de la Cruz Go, Anacleto Sanchez, Roberto Amposta, Oscar Torres, Maria Catapang Jumento, Rosalio Teves, Leonardo de la Pas, and Hannah Aileen Lim Hernandez and Meynardo Banayo, licensed customs broker.
Another complaint was filed by the BOC involving unlawful importation of sugar consigned to Medardo Banglos which was made to appear as locally produced in order to evade payment of duties and taxes and the required import permit from the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA).
Customs intelligence and agents apprehended the shipment at Port of Manila from Cotabato City on board a Superferry 09 after discovering said shipment of sugars, based on its markings and labels, originated from Thailand.
Said shipment was in violation of Section 3601 in relation to sections 2503 and 2530 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
The fourth case involves the shipment of 6 x 40 containers of onions with an approximate value of P890,249 which was imported without the required import clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry in violation of the provisions of TCCP.
Named respondents in the case are Lilybeth Valenzuela, Mahesh Kumar, Loida Bracamonte, Luzner Caasi, Dranreb Viojan, and Manuel Joey Rex Anito and Diosdao Bagon, the licensed customs broker who processed the subject shipments.
BOC, likewise, filed a criminal complaint against Gloria Ho De Mesa, Tito Ho De Mesa and Racuel Cruz-Mayuga for having submitted falsified business permit with the customs accreditation secretariat in connection with the application for accreditation of Cleomar Trading Incorporated as importer.
Morales said the filing of the charges is part of the BOC’s crackdown against smugglers of regulated commodities.