Alleged top BOC bribe-givers also earlier linked to rice, garlic smuggling

August 23, 2017 - 10:07 PM
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Philstar file photo of Davidson Bangayan also known as David Tan

MANILA, Philippines – Some of the individuals who were accused by Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday as among the players allegedly pulling the strings at the Bureau of Customs were also linked to rice and garlic smuggling in past Senate investigations, according to Sen. Cynthia Villar.

Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, made a manifestation after Lacson’s speech, saying that David Tan and Manuel Santos (named in Lacson’s list as Manny Santos) were mentioned in the Senate’s review of rice smuggling activities back in 2013 as well as Lea Cruz during the Upper Chamber’s inquiry into the garlic cartel earlier this year and the previous years.

Ito ay parang support na ito ‘yong mga names na nakita na rin namin [This was like a support to the names we also saw] in other investigations of the Senate. Ang ikinalulungkot natin…walang na-file na kaso maski isa dito sa mga tao na ito [What makes us sad is that no case were filed against anyone of them],” Villar said.

According to Lacson, David Tan and the Manny Santos were among the big players at the BOC, allegedly facilitating the easy release of about 100 to 110 containers and 80 to 100 containers, respectively, through regularly bribing the bureau’s officials and personnel, which is also called the tara system.

Cruz was also accused by Lacson as among the bribe-givers at the bureau.

Villar urged for the establishment of a national single window system at the BOC as previously suggested by former Customs chief John Sevilla. She said the system would help address systemic corruption at the agency through computerized internet-based transactions.

She also hoped the recently passed law that included large-scale agri-smuggling as economic sabotage would be applied soon following investigations of corruption at the BOC.

Sana po ay mai-apply na ‘yan para sa gano’n baka naman makasuhan ‘yong iba ay tumigil na sila sa kanilang ginagawa sa ating Bureau of Customs [I hope they apply the law so cases could be filed against the perpetrators and they will stop what they are doing to our Bureau of Customs],” she said.

Tan, Santos, and Cruz’s alleged roles in rice, garlic smuggling

Back in 2013, David Tan, also known as Davidson Bangayan, was suspected of being allegedly involved in the massive rice smuggling in the country.

Witnesses at that time claimed that Tan or Bangayan used farmers’ cooperatives to bid for rice importation permits from the National Food Authority (NFA).

In 2014, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte faced the Senate agriculture committee and confirmed that David Bangayan was also David Tan.

Bangayan, who also appeared earlier in the same Senate inquiry, denied Duterte’s allegations.

In 2015, the Department of Justice returned the Bangayan smuggling case to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for lack of evidence despite developments in the legislative investigations about the suspected smuggler.

Another personality, also allegedly into rice smuggling, is Emmanuel Santos of Jade Brothers Farm and Livestock Incorporated and Medaglia De Oro.

Firms linked to Santos were accused of importing rice without permit from the NFA. But Santos maintained that he was an accredited rice importer at the BOC.

The BOC in turn 2014 filed complaints against Santos along with eight licensed Customs broker from Cebu in connection with rice smuggling.

As for the garlic cartel controversy, it was revealed during a Senate inquiry that a certain businesswoman named Lilia Matabang Cruz or “Lea Cruz” allegedly controlled 75 percent of the country’s garlic trade and caused the artificial garlic shortage to jack up the price of the commodity.

Cruz was among the 119 individuals criminally charged by the NBI in 2015 for their alleged role in the spike of garlic prices in 2014.

Findings of the NBI showed that Bureau of Plant Industry Director Clarito Barron allegedly granted importation permits to questionable importers like Cruz of Vieva Phils in exchange for P240,000.