Agriculture stakeholders hail SC TRO on smuggled rice

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 21 2014 02:58 AM | Updated as of Mar 21 2014 10:58 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Stakeholders in the agriculture industry have lauded the Supreme Court (SC) for stopping the release of a rice shipment seized at the Port of Manila last year.

The shipment was seized for lack of the required import permit from the government.

Speaking to reporters, Rosendo So, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) chairman, said the temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the Manila regional trial court from implementing an order for the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to release the 189,540 bags of rice was “a victory for the local rice industry.”

“This is also a relief to the millions of rice farmers whose livelihoods have been threatened by the rampant smuggling of rice,” he said.

Sinag had been asserting that the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice that the country enjoys has nothing to do with the domestic law on import permits.

So said the SC action will serve as a stern warning to judges who think that they can get away easily with rulings benefiting smugglers.

“With or without the QRs, the authority to issue import permits by the National Food Authority remains valid unless we enact new legislation or adjust our administrative processes that will remove our QR on rice. It is not the WTO or the expiration of the QR that will automatically remove the authority of the NFA,” he said.

Sinag executive director Jayson Cainglet said: “Regardless then of our QR status, the NFA has the sole authority to import rice and to authorize private entities to import rice. Without such authority from the NFA, bringing rice to the country is clear smuggling.”

Sinag had filed administrative charges before the SC against Manila RTC Branch 11 Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. for ordering the release of the rice shipment.

In the TRO released last Wednesday, the SC ordered Jurado to suspend hearing the case pending resolution of the petition that the BOC and Department of Agriculture (DA) have filed.

The TRO is effective immediately and until further orders from the SC, which was consolidated with a similar petition that the BOC and DA had filed earlier in connection with another seized shipment in Davao City.

The shipment was consigned to Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise owned by Ivy Souza. It was later sold to Danilo Galang, owner of St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises who questioned the BOC’s orders before the RTC.

The SC ordered Galang and Souza to answer the petition within 10 days from receipt of notice.

Last Jan. 23 and Feb. 27, the Manila RTC restrained the BOC and the district collectors for the Ports of Manila, North Harbor (Manila International Container Port) and South Harbor from alerting, seizing and holding not only the rice shipments of Galang but also of Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise owned by Souza, the original consignee of the rice shipments.

Sinag also filed similar charges against the other judges who favored alleged rice smugglers – Batangas RTC Judge Eutiquio Quitain, Manila RTC Judge Maria Paz Reyes-Yson and Davao RTC Judge Emmanuel Carpio – for gross misconduct and knowingly rendering an unjust judgment.

Alcala challenged to a face-off

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was challenged yesterday to a face-off over his accusations that rice smugglers are backing his critics in an alleged demolition job.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Antonio Flores said Alcala can “pull cheap shots” and resort to name-calling anytime, but that he cannot cover up the fact that his name, signature, and approval are all around the evidence, and that he is principally liable in the plunder of agricultural funds.

“We challenge Alcala in a face-off so that, right to his face, we can tell him that he is a plunderer,” he said.

“Alcala is the number one protector and beneficiary of rice smugglers. Alcala who maintained Napoles NGOs in the DA and established his own empire of fake NGOs in connivance with the Quezon Mafia. – With Ding Cervantes