Probes into rice smuggling are 'coordinated,' says De Lima

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2014 06:48 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2014 02:48 AM

MANILA - They may be holding separate and simultaneous investigations into the rice smuggling trade in the country, but the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Agriculture (DA), and Bureau of Customs (BOC) are coordinating their efforts and sharing data, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Fresh from the third Senate inquiry hearing into rice smuggling by the Committee on Agriculture and Food on Wednesday, De Lima said the "coordinated parallel" investigations are aimed at achieving the best results: identifying the personalities behind the illegal trade, prosecuting them before the courts, and coming up with policies to stamp out rice smuggling.

De Lima ordered the NBI, an attached agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ), to investigate rice smuggling in various ports in the country as an offshoot of the Senate Agriculture Committee's findings and recommendations in 2013.

"Kahit wala naman kami, strictly speaking, a joint probe or official probe na ginagawa ngayon, you can say we are having a coordinated parallel probe na ginagawa ngayon. Nag-iimbestiga kami, nag-iimbestiga rin sila, pero mayroonn na kaming coordinated probe.

"What exactly is coordinated parrallel probe? Nagsi-share kami ng information, nag-eexchange kami ng information with each other, nag-aassist. We are extending assistance to each other," De Lima said.

The justice chief admitted that the technical expertise of the DA and BOC will greatly help the NBI in its probe.

"NBI is investigative, pero yung mga technical aspects of the investigation, majority or the dominant facts that may be established, have to come from the data, from the inputs, from the records from the BOC and sa NFA (National Food Authority) kaya nagtutulong tulong kami sa isa't isa.

"Kaysa naman dati na walang coordinated probe; because of the coordinated probe, magkakaroon kami ng results," De Lima said.