MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating a refiled complaint against alleged big-time rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan aka “David Tan” and several others over alleged illegal activities aimed at monopolizing the supply and distribution of rice in the local market.
The preliminary investigation by a 3-member DOJ panel, headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Eden Valdes, is on the complaint of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Graft Division which was refiled on August 29, two years after the justice department remanded to the bureau its original complaint filed in August 2014.
The NBI investigated Bangayan and company upon the request of the Senate, through its Committee Report No. 763 (Committees on Agriculture and Food, Ways and Means, Trade and Commerce, and Accountability of Public Officers).
In the refiled complaint, Bangayan was charged with (1) monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade, as penalized under Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC); (2) bid fixing, as penalized under Section 65 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9184 (Government Procurement Act); (3) using fictitious name or concealing true name, as penalized under Article 178 of the RPC; and (4) violation of Commonwealth Act No. 142, as amended by RA No. 6085.
His co-respondents in the first alleged offense are Judilyne Lim, David Lim, and Leah Echiveria of Cebu-based DGL Commodities; Elizabeth Faustino; and Eleanor Rodriguez. For the second alleged offense: Judilyne Lim, Faustino, Rodriguez, and Echiveria.
Other individuals were also listed as respondents in the complaint namely, Eugene G. Pioquinto, Mary Joyce Lim, Jason Colocado, Michael H. Villanueva, Denis Gonzales, Willy O. Sy, Sandra Lim, Gil O. Calipayan, and Inigo Espiritu.
The NBI alleged that respondents schemed to recruit rice farmers in order organize them “for the purpose of acquiring substantial allocations on the PSF-TES importation program with the end goal of monopolizing the supply of rice.”
“[T]he aforementioned individuals conspired or agreed to organize the farmers cooperatives and organizations as well as other juridical personalities in order to monopolize the supply and distribution of rice thru pre-arranged bidding and other false pretenses thereby preventing free competition in the market.
“With the acts of subject Bangayan and company, the other capable individuals were denied of their share on the allocation of the rice importation,” the NBI complaint read.
According to the bureau, the scheme cornered government’s rice import allocations, through the National Food Authority (NFA), in 2012 using 25 farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, and single proprietors that did not have the necessary financial and logistical capabilities as “dummies.”
The NBI said bidders for NFA rice allocations were financed in exchange for a small percentage per sack as "share."
The NBI urged the DOJ to furnish copies of the complaint to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) "for possible audit" of the single proprietorships and corporations “used by the financiers as dummies in the importation of rice, as well as the financiers themselves, to determine their actual tax liabilities, and to examine the bank transactions of the financiers including their identified employees or agents.”
The DOJ gave respondents up to October 12 for the filing of their counter-affidavits; another setting is scheduled on October 30.
It may be recalled that in a news conference on January 7, 2014, then Davao City Mayor and now President Duterte threatened to kill Bangayan, who was suspected of being behind rice smuggling activities in the city. Mr. Duterte reiterated the warning during a Senate hearing on rice smuggling on February 3, 2014, where Bangayan was also present.
"I will gladly kill him; I will not hesitate. I will do it for my country," Duterte said.