Press Release
February 27, 2018


Sen. Grace Poe today said it was important for the government to haul to court suspected big-time rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan, aka David Tan, and other members of syndicates or smugglers operating under the nose of the National Food Authority (NFA).

"Matagal na nating naririnig ang pangalan ni Davidson Bangayan/David Tan. Nasa hearing natin yan noon. Mismong ang ating Presidente, sinabi na siya ay dadakpin. May kaso ba yan o hanggang ngayon wala pa rin? Hindi pa rin matunton?" Poe asked on Tuesday during the hearing of the Senate committee on agriculture on rice shortage.

During the Senate inquiry in 2014, it was established that Bangayan and Tan were one and the same person even as the businessman insisted that he was not the one named in intelligence reports as the prime mover in the rice smuggling industry. Then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told the Senate that there was no doubt that Bangayan and Tan were the same person.

Customs officials told Senate probers they do not hold any record of Bangayan nor Tan. NFA officials, for their part, told senators that based on their records, there was no David Bangayan who participated in their biddings and that the NFA did not issue rice import permits to Bangayan.

Poe also cited a number of individuals who have continuously cropped up as having been involved in alleged illegal activities in the NFA. NFA Administrator Jason Aquino admitted some of them were employed in the agency.

Poe moved to invite the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation in the next hearing to shed light on cases filed against the purported big-time rice smuggler.

The government had so far filed three cases against suspected rice smugglers and illegal importers in Cebu, Subic, Zamboanga under Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, a result of the earlier Senate inquiry under the previous Congress.

It was also revealed that the Bureau of Customs still failed to fully account for the smuggled sacks of rice in Zamboanga after two months, which, according to Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chair Rosendo So were only 40,000 bags from the original 60,000 at the time the government flagged the shipment.

Meanwhile, Poe scored the NFA chief's decision to recall NFA-designated personnel assigned to check rice imports at ports. "Hindi na natin mache-check ang quality ng rice na ini-import," said Poe.

The senator also said a certain Marigold De Castro is in charge of rice-related businesses in Region 3 who acts as "front" for the NFA chief, while a certain Ritchie Carpio, De Castro's cousin, allegedly acts as an "enforcer" of Aquino's directives who has a direct hand in employees' transfer if they defy Aquino's orders.

Aquino denied this, saying he does not meddle in local procurement.

The NFA was put on a spotlight after it said its buffer stocks of cheap rice were running low. Aquino said it only has 1.7 days of existing stock, as against the mandated 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean months of July to September.

The heavily subsidized state-run grains agency will import 250,000 metric tons of rice mainly from Vietnam and Thailand to replenish its stock.

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