MANILA - A business leader has accused the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of failing to go after four big-time rice smugglers identified in a Senate investigation on rice smuggling last year.
A Senate joint committee had recommended that David Tan, a certain Danny Ngo, Danilo Garcia (head of a rice dealers’ association in southern Metro Manila) and Willy Sy (owner of Montevallo Enterprises, allegedly a bogus cooperative) be prosecuted for corruption; violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, and Republic Act No. 1956, which amended Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code on monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade.
In a phone interview with The STAR, Jesus Arranza, Federation of Philippine Industries president, said the country’s primary law enforcement agency was in the best position to unmask David Tan whom he recently exposed could be Davidson Bangayan, who has already been charged for various anomalous transactions.
“We don’t know what they have done so far,” he said.
NBI officials were present during the series of hearings on rice smuggling in the Senate last year, he added.
Aranza said then Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile issued an order to the NBI to go after the big-time rice smugglers and pursue the leads into their identities and whereabouts.
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“By the way, I attended all the hearings,” he said.
“I saw the NBI was present in those hearings, too.”
Arranza said “David Tan” was apparently an alias of a certain Davidson Tan Bangayan, a Chinese-Filipino from Davao City.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself is tracking down David Tan and has vowed to prosecute him, he added.
Lawyer Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for regional operations and services, said the NBI has confirmed that DT and Davidson Bangayan are one and the same person.
Arranza said Davidson Tan Bangayan was a scrap metal trader from Davao City before going into rice smuggling.
A “high probability” exists that the David Tan mentioned in a series of rice smuggling reports and Davidson Tan Bangayan are one and the same person, he added.
Arranza said FPI earlier received a complaint from a Singapore firm against a local firm led by David Tan for failing to fulfill a contract to supply 230 containers of scrap metal for delivery to India.
It was later found that Tan had instead shipped used tires, he added.
Arranza said the Singaporean firm named Davidson Bangayan aka David Tan as respondent in a civil case in the Calamba City Regional Trial Court on July 13, 2005.
FPI is following up the case, he added.
The NBI must unmask the real identities of David Tan and Davidson Tan Bangayan, whether they are one and the same person, Arranza said.
The NBI has been pursuing the investigation of the big-time rice smugglers, especially David Tan.
Mendez said any development in the investigation was monitored and disseminated by the Department of Justice.
“And we have detailed and documented report about this subject. DT for short,” he said.
The NBI had taken action on the Senate’s order to pursue the leads on the big-time rice smugglers, he added.
A former Bureau of Customs (BOC) official has accused David Tan of being the point man of rice smugglers two years ago to centralize smuggling transactions.
A 43-page report signed by senators on Feb. 6 said: “The committees found that there is sufficient basis to conclude that financiers are behind the anomalous transactions, and the testimony and documents obtained in the hearings establish without a doubt that these financiers exist and have employed dummies to rig the bidding process.
“It is now the task of the Ombudsman, Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation to pursue, beginning with Mr. Danilo Garcia, Mr. Willy Sy, a certain ‘Danny Ngo’ and ‘David Tan.’ These financiers and their accomplices must be unmasked and if warranted, the necessary charges should be filed against them.”
Firm denies allegation of smuggling
An import firm has denied government allegations of rice smuggling.
In a statement, Starcraft International Trading Corp. said it did not attempt to deceive authorities about the goods they were importing, and, in fact, informed them in advance about the shipment.
“On the contrary, they were ready and willing to pay the proper tariffs, in this case the requisite 50 percent duties,” read the statement.
“Where have you seen smugglers ready to pay the right duties? Smugglers exert effort to evade such duties so they can increase their profits; no such thing was done here.”
Starcraft lawyer Benito Salazar dismissed the allegations as a “vilification campaign” led by officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority (NFA) that “unfairly sullied the name of individuals and enterprises who just want to make an honest living.”
In a letter dated September 2013, his clients told NFA administrator Orlan Calayag that existing policy requiring importers to secure import permits to bring rice into the country was inconsistent with international agreements, he added.
“The issuance by NFA of an import permit is classified as discretionary import permit” and that this was considered “a form of Quantitative Import Restriction,” lawyers of Starcraft said.
The expiration of the quantitative restrictions in June 2012 meant that the right of the Philippines, including the NFA, to impose Quantitative Restrictions (including the issuance of NFA import permits) had already elapsed and was no longer necessary.
Salazar said lawyers at the BOC agreed with his clients’ position on the matter.
An endorsement was made in September last year to Port of Manila District Collector Rogel Gatchalian and signed by BOC Legal Service Director Simplicio Domingo II, he added.
Domingo said the special treatment that the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) granted the Philippines to impose quantitative restriction on the importation of rice by way of import licensing and/or import quotas already expired on June 30, 2012.
They were aware that the DA was still in the process of seeking an extension of the restrictions, he added.
Salazar said the DA and NFA are misleading Duterte on the issue.
“We laud Mayor Duterte for his no-nonsense battle against crime, but in this case no crime was committed, so my clients are not criminals,” he said.
“So the threats issued by the good mayor are unnecessary.”
Salazar the NFA is also misleading their colleagues in Customs about the controversy. – With Edu Punay, Edith Regalado