MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted the first hearing on Thursday on the perjury complaint against controversial businessman Davidson Bangayan filed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
Bangayan did not appear before the hearing, and was not represented by counsel.
There was no need for him to appear since the hearing was set for the submission of his counter-affidavit, and Bangayan already filed his counter-affidavit on Wednesday, assisted by his lawyer, Atty. Alejandre Ovenas II.
The Senate, represented by Senate Legal Counsel Atty Valentina Cruz and Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Legislative Secretary Horace Cudra, received a copy of Bangayan's 12-page counter-affidavit, and signified intent to file a reply on March 10.
The committee charged Bangayan with perjury for lying under oath that he is also known as "David Tan," the alleged rice smuggling king of the country today.
In his affidavit, Bangayan urged DOJ Prosecution Attorney Loverhette Jeffrey Villordon to dismiss the charge for being "baseless."
Bangayan pointed out that his denial that he is also known as "David Tan" was "not upon a material matter" since his identity is not the focus of the Senate investigation.
"Clearly, the Senate inquiry was about rice sufficiency, rice importation and/or smuggling. It was never about who 'David Tan' is. All the more, the Senate inquiry was never about who I was, or whether or not I and that person identified as 'David Tan,' are one and the same person.
"I respectfully submit that the purported statement which I uttered, i.e., that I am not David Tan, does not pertain to the material matter subject of the Senate investigation," Bangayan's counter-affidavit read.
He argued that he did not deliberately assert any falsehood before the Senate inquiry, and that his birth certificate and other identification records reveal that he is Davidson Bangayan.
Responding to the Senate committee's assertion that he represented himself as 'David Tan' in the libel complaint he filed against Philippine Federation of Industries president Jesus Arranza and several journalists in 2005, Bangayan admitted that he may have committed an oversight, but that it was not tantamount to a conclusive admission of his identity.
He added that he signed the complaint as Davidson Bangayan, and not as 'David Tan.'
In his complaint against Arranza, et al., Bangayan said that the commentaries and news articles about 'David Tan' subject of the case all pertained to no other person than him.
"Looking back, there may have been some oversight on my part, and I should have exercised more prudence so that the statements contained in the complaint for libel could not have been misconstrued as an admission as regards my identity.
"In any case, lack of prudence, oversight or even simple negligence, do not necessarily translate into the presence of malice or evil intent on my part," the counter-affidavit read.
For its part, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food insists that it was able to establish that Bangayan and Tan are one and the same person, not only because of the testimonies of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Arranza, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte identifying Bangayan as Tan, but also because of its extensive research brought about by the probe which began last year.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is conducting an investigation into rice smuggling in various ports in the country, insists that Bangayan is 'David Tan.' The bureau has yet to conclude its probe.
Bangayan is out on bail for an electricity pilferage case before a trial court against 'David Tan.'
To date, no charges have been filed against Bangayan in connection with his alleged smuggling network.
Senate Agriculture and Food chairperson Sen. Cynthia Villar had said Bangayan's modus involves the use of legitimate farmers' groups to obtain rice import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA).