Farmers hit Davao court for order releasing smuggled rice

by Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2014 05:27 PM | Updated as of Jan 18 2014 01:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Several farmer groups have condemned the order of a Davao City court judge to release 167 containers of smuggled rice seized by the Bureau of Customs last year.

The Alyansa Agrikultura, the National Council of Rice Farmers, Rural Women's Congress and R1, a rice watch and action center, urged the Bureau of Customs to defy the order since there is also a pending motion for reconsideration filed by the agency.

The farmer groups also requested Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to remove and investigate Davao Judge Emmanuel Carpio who allegedly railroaded the matter by coming up with an injunction in a matter of 7 days. They have also sought the help of the Office of the Ombudsman against government lawyer James Dy Buco.

They will also submit a "complaint in intervention" for the cases filed by alleged rice importers.

The group believes David Tan belongs to a network of smugglers because his lawyer, Benito Salazar, was also the lawyer for Starcraft International Trading Corp., a rice importer.

Farmer groups have been asking the Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority to address the issue on smuggling but there was no action.

Farmer groups said cheap smuggled rice is killing their livelihood. They continue to sell their palay at a low price but traders are taking advantage of the shortage by raising prices.

Meanwhile, Customs Commissioner Sunny Sevilla, who has vowed to fight smuggling, says he is releasing a third releasing the third unauthorized shipment of rice because of the court order.

"Humihingi kami ng pag-unawa sa mga magsasakang alam naming maapektohan nito. Sa ayaw namin o gusto, wala po kaming choice kundi sumunod sa korte," he said.

Sevilla said he is asking for the understanding of farmers who will be affected by the release of smuggled rice. - With ANC