Ex-NFA chief summoned to rice smuggling probe

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 10 2012 02:35 PM | Updated as of Dec 11 2012 07:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate Committee on Agriculture will summon former National Food Authority Administrator Lito Banayo to its next inquiry to shed light on his alleged links to rice smugglers.

This, after the committee heard from a witness today that Banayo has to explain why only a select few among the rice cooperatives in the country have import permits.

Banayo resigned from his post two months ago as he is seeking a congressional seat in the midterm elections.

Committee Chair Francis Pangilinan told media, "Yes, he will be asked again. Sen. [Jinggoy] Estrada had made a manifestation before we suspended that he be asked to appear in the next hearing."

Pangilinan said Banayo has a lot to explain. "The whole process precisely is conducted by and then certified by and accredited by the NFA so we'd like to hear from him his response dito sa latest findings ng committee based on the testimonies"

The senator, however, clarified there is no direct link yet to pin down Banayo for smuggling.

"Wala pa nga although he has admitted as much. Sabi niya na he admits na because of the two-week period within which they were given to accredit all these orgs eh nagkaroon talaga ng ibang problema," he said.

The committee is providing security for Simeon Sioson of the Federation of San Miguel Cooperatives after he tagged Banayo in today's hearing.

The committee has been investigating the alleged smuggling of imported rice through Subic port and other ports in the country.

Meantime the committee released from its custody Magdangal Diego Maralit Bayani of St Andrews Rice and Cereals after 45 days.

The committee cited Bayani in contempt for refusing to answer certain questions during the hearings.