Banayo a no-show at rice smuggling probe

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 17 2012 03:46 PM | Updated as of Dec 17 2012 11:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The former chief of the National Food Authority NFA) failed to attend a hearing on Monday of the Senate agriculture and food committee, which is investigating his alleged involvement in rice smuggling.

Former NFA Administrator Lito Banayo sent a letter to the committee to excuse himself, saying he is under therapy after an invasive heart procedure last week.

Agriculture committee chair Sen. Francis Pangilinan said another hearing will be scheduled to give Banayo a chance to air his side.

"We want to hear what he has to say. The invitation stands," Pangilinan told reporters.

At a previous hearing, witnesses tagged Banayo and the late Philippine Tourism Authority Administrator Nixon Kua in rice smuggling.

Simeon Sioson of the 4 SM Agri Venture Multi-Purpose Cooperative said Banayo favored rice importers over domestic farmers.

Banayo, who resigned from the NFA administrator to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, had denied the charge in previous interviews. He said that in fact, the NFA has drastically reduced rice imports.

Several rice traders who have been cited in contempt for failing to attend earlier hearings apologized to senators.

A number of them said they felt afraid after receiving subpoenas to attend the Senate hearing, but denied they had intended to hide.