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Robin Padilla wants death penalty for Customs officers working with smugglers

Senator Robin Padilla has filed a measure seeking to impose the death penalty on officers of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), or any law enforcement agency who will be found conniving with agricultural smugglers.

Padilla filed Senate Bill 2214 after the Senate inquiry into the alleged rampant agricultural smuggling in the country where he lamented that law enforcers themselves are found to be in conspiracy with perpetrators of crimes.

“We have to send a strong message that the large-scale agricultural smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products perpetrated by the officers and employees of the Bureau of Customs are heinos and a threat to the very foundation of our society. Hence, there is a compelling reason to impose death penalty,” Padilla said in his explanatory note.

During the Senate hearing, he mentioned the recent Senate inquiries where they learned that some former soldiers and policemen were involved in “gun-for-hire” and that some policemen were involved in the pilferage of illegal drugs.

“Ngayon, hearing na naman namin patungkol sa smuggling… Napakasakit pong isipin, nauwi na tayo sa panahon na ang mga suspects natin at ang mga salarin ay ang nasa law enforcement,” Padilla said.

(Right now, we are going to hear bills regarding smuggling... It is painful that we are in a situation where the suspects for these crimes are law enforcers themselves.)

“Law enforcement kayo. Pinamumugaran tayo ng smuggling. Sa tingin niyo ba masaya ako na life imprisonment lang kayo? Magbibigay ako ng panukalang batas na kayo diyan sa BOC na kapag kayo napatunayang involved sa smuggling, dapat kamatayan din kayo,” he added.

(You are part of the law enforcement agencies. Smuggling is so rampant. Do you think I’m happy that you will only face life imprisonment? I will file a bill that will impose death penalty for BOC officers who are involved in smuggling.)

He pointed out that smuggling kills the livelihood of local farmers, and that it is embarrassing that an agricultural country like the Philippines is resorting to importation.

“Kaya po sana ang hiling ko po sa ating committee ng agrikultura, dito po sa panahon namin, kung hindi man namin kayang talusin itong smuggling sana po mabawasan, dahil ang tinitingnan po natin dito ay ang mga magsasaka nating kababayan,” he said.

(Our request for the Committee on Agriculture is to reduce smuggling activities  in the country if we cannot totally eradicate it to ensure the livelihood of our local farmers.)

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros recently filed a bill seeking to penalize government officials and employees found conspiring with agricultural smugglers with life imprisonment.

When asked at what level is the BOC’s involvement in smuggling, Customs Assistant Commissioner Vincent Maronilla said it is mostly in the ports.

“Kung meron po dito sa amin, magsisimula po talaga ‘yan sa mga puwerto namin. Doon ho kasi pinproseso ang mga shipments na ‘yan,” he said.

“Kung meron mang kamalian ang mga abogado namin, mga tao namin dito at napatunayan po, hindi po mag-aatubili ang commissioner of Customs na panagutin ang mga taong ito,” he added.

(If there is any corruption in the BOC, it starts at the ports where shipments are being processed. If our lawyers and personnel are involved in this, our commissioner will not think twice to hold them accountable.)

Maronilla said Customs Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio has already discussed with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla the “loopholes” in BOC operations that become a factor in the poor prosecution of smugglers. —KBK, GMA Integrated News