Senate orders arrest of rice importer in Subic smuggling attempt
The Senate on Wednesday ordered the arrest of an importer who allegedly tried to distribute imported rice that was illegally brought into the Subic Freeport Zone.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said they have issued an arrest order for Magdangal Diego Bayani III of St. Andrews Field Grains and Cereal Trading in Pasay City.
"Yung arrest order out na for [Bayani] for ignoring and not complying to the subpoena," he told reporters after Wednesday's hearing on the incident tagged as rice smuggling.
Twice, Bayani has failed to appear before the Senate committee to shed light on the incident.
He was one of the importers who supposedly attempted to sell in the Philippine market 420,000 sacks of illegally imported white Indian rice.
Another importer, Alfredo Cruz of GPI San Miguel Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Bulacan, also failed to show up twice but was spared from an arrest order after his lawyer told the Senate committee he was ill.
"We will set that aside for the time being…” said Pangilinan. “Hintayin natin katotohanan dun sa kanyang allegation… Sabi may sakit daw siya. And then we will take it from there," he added.
"Gusto natin makita yung testimony nitong dalawa... Sinasabing willing daw silang bumili bilang mga importer sa [Indian exporter] Amira [Foods]," the senator noted.
Earlier, the Senate panel also asked the following entities to explain in writing why they should not be cited for contempt for issuing conflicting testimonies:
- Protik Guha, CEO of Indian company Amira Foods
- Cesar Ramirez of Purok Malakas, Gen. Santos CIty
- Cesar Bulaon, vice president of Metroeastern Trading Corp. – consignee of Amira
- Stefani Saño, senior deputy administrator for business and investment development of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)
- Vicente "Bong" Cuevas III, broker and president of CAMJ Construction Inc.
There might have been collusion between and among SBMA officials, Cuevas, Bulaon, and Amira Foods to facilitate the entry of 420,000 sacks of white Indian rice into the Subic Freeport Zone, according to Senators investigating the incident.
Pangilinan said the five entities have submitted their respective answers to explain their side of the matter but that the committee would still decide on whether or not they should be cited for contempt.
"We have to confer [with] the other members of the committee, although I support the position of our Senate President in terms of yung intention to be evasive and not to be candid and truthful sa committee na ito," he said.
He cited Ramirez, who admitted in writing that he sent an email to Protik inquiring about the rice, contrary to his previous statement. — VS, GMA News