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DOJ chief to check on status of rice smuggling cases.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will review the status of the rice smuggling cases pending before it.

'I'm checking if there are other rice smuggling cases being investigated,' DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

'The DOJ will evaluate all available evidence and will act accordingly,' he added.

Guevarra made the statement after President Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address last Monday, warned traders to stop engaging in rice cartels.

Guevarra said he would personally inquire into the number of rice smuggling cases pending and the status of these cases.

One of the latest rice smuggling cases filed before the DOJ was the complaint filed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last Thursday against Sta. Rosa Farms president and general manager Jomerito Soliman, chief financial officer Dolores Opancia, directors Mary Grace Cayanan and Marileen Avanez. Also named respondent was their licensed customs broker Diosdado Santiago.

They were accused of illegally importing 200 container vans of rice from Thailand that arrived at the Manila International Container Port.

Duterte had warned those engaged in the rice cartel business not to mess with the Filipino people.

He told the unscrupulous people to change their ways or else they would feel the 'full force of the State.'

'To help stabilize rice prices, we also need to address the issue of artificial rice shortage. I now ask all the rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors, you know that I know who you are: stop messing with the people,' Duterte said in his SONA.

'I hate to... Power sometimes is not a good thing. But I hope I will not have to use it against you.'

Duterte ordered 'all intelligence agencies to unmask the perpetrators of this economic sabotage and our law enforcement agencies to bring them to justice.'

'Consider yourselves warned; mend your ways now or the full force of the State shall be brought to bear upon you,' the Chief Executive had said.

The group Bantay Bigas challenged Duterte to make good on his promise to prosecute rice smugglers.

'President Duterte's resolve to put an end to rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors will now be tested. Duterte should prove his words during his last State of the Nation Address and take legal actions against the rice smugglers,' Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

She said the country's dependence on rice importation only strengthens the operation of rice cartels and smuggling in the country.

Estavillo cited the latest rice smuggling attempt, which she said is already the third time that smuggled rice was seized and yet no one is held accountable.

'It is easier for smuggled rice to enter the country with a liberalized importation policy as smugglers take advantage of the arrival of rice imports,' she said.

Estavillo said the rice tariffication proposal would make it worse.

'We expect rice smuggling to worsen if rice tariffication will push through. Under tariffication, more private traders are allowed to import, resulting in the flooding of imported rice and making the monitoring of rice imports more difficult,' Estavillo said.

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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Date:Jul 29, 2018
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