Brokers, rice traders face contempt raps

By Christina Mendez, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 12 2014 03:25 AM | Updated as of Feb 12 2014 11:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Brokers and rice traders will face contempt charges if they fail to show up at the Senate committee on agriculture and food hearings on rice smuggling after being issued summons.

Committee chairman Sen. Cynthia Villar was referring to broker Eleonor Rodriguez, who assisted in the documentation of Albay rice shipment cooperatives; Leah Echevaria, broker Elizabeth Faustino, and businessman David Lim and his wife Judyline Lim.

“We have subpoenaed all of them,” Villar said. “If they don’t attend, they can be cited for contempt and ordered arrested. We have discussed that the committee must issue a warning first before the four (others) can be arrested if they fail to attend.”

Faustino was the “consolidator” of the late Nixon Kua, a former journalist who reportedly got involved in rice trading. She had links with farmers’ cooperatives identified as Formosa Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC) (Ricardo Gatuz Jr.); Riverview Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Juanito Evangelista); Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunlaran MPC (Felix Villena Sr.); GPI San Miguel MPC (Alfredo Cruz); Sitio Muzon Farmers MPC (Ronaldo Valdez) and Sta. Cecilia MPC (Zenaida Abanio).

Echeveria was the attorney-in-fact for 21 cooperatives that filed a civil case against the National Food Authority (NFA) with Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 217.

Records at the committee on agriculture and food showed that Echeveria filed Civil Case No. Q-12-71913, where Judge Arenas ordered a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, then NFA administrator Angelito Banayo and Assistant Administrator Cordero.

Senate records showed that the TRO prevented and restrained the NFA and DA officials from delaying or holding the release of import permits/memorandum of undertaking, imposing penalties, forfeiting the performance security bonds/deposits, canceling the authority to import under the Tax Expenditure Subsidy, among others.

The Lim couple is engaged in businesses ranging from rice trading, trucking and commodities.

Mr. Lim attended one of the earlier Senate hearings, but he told the committee that his wife handled their businesses.

The couple failed to attend the last public hearing.

Villar said yesterday the committee on agriculture and food is deferring a petition for the cancellation of the passport of Davidson Bangayan pending the filing of perjury charges before a competent court.

“As advised by our legal counsel, we have to go through the process,” she said.

“But we have filed the perjury complaint.On the issue of cancellation of passport, there should be a case filed before it is recommended for cancelation. There is a legal process in the cancelation of passport and we will go through that.”

Villar said Senate lawyers are still consolidating the criminal cases against Bangayan to determine if these can be used to bolster the Senate’s plan to seek the cancelation of his passport.

The committee will also gather records of the electricity pilferage case against Bangayan before a Caloocan City court.

The Senate will resume public hearings on Feb. 24. – With Teddy Molina