Smuggling should be heinous crime punishable by death – lawmaker

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Smuggling as a heinous crime punishable by death has been proposed by a senior administration congressman who said the act strikes against the life of government, which are taxes, and denies Filipinos much needed services.

With the death penalty bill up for plenary debates in the House of Representatives next week, AKO Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe said smuggling is one of the principal reasons for poverty in the country. He likened the illegal activity to a “vampire that sucks government resources.”

Batocabe, vice chairman of the House Committee on Illegal Drugs, called on the public to back government anti-smuggling efforts, particularly pointing to the ongoing drive initiated by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

He lauded SBMA chairman Martin Diño for acting with dispatch on the directive of President Duterte to take swift and strong action to stop smuggling in his turf.

“Smuggling should be considered a heinous crime because this strikes against the very core of the life of the government, which are taxes,” the party-list lawmaker said.

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He added: “If you smuggle, you are like a termite and a leech which suck our coffers dry, deprive our poor the needed social services, and kill our jobs and industries.”

Batocabe stated that for committing serious offenses against the people, smugglers “deserve to die not only once but many times over.”

Batocabe said he will pursue the inclusion of smuggling in the list of crimes punishable by death as soon as the death penalty bill is presented for individual or committee amendments.

Meanwhile, Dino has sought the National Food Authority’s (NFA) clarification whether it has resumed granting permits for rice importation after the discovery of an estimated 260,000 bags of Thai rice onboard M/V MY Vuong off the Subic Freeport waters or outside port limits.

Diño said some 13,000 metric tons of white rice from Thailand covered by an alleged import permit (IP) issued by NFA Administrator Tomas R. Escarez were about to be unloaded at the Subic Freeport when discovered by SBMA authorities.

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“We have stopped the unloading to give us time to determine if the import permit is genuine,” Dino said. “So far, the NFA has not responded to our query.”

The alleged IP was issued Dec. 29 last year and valid for seven days in favor of Labangan Farmers First Consolidated Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC), Multi Grain MPC, Adda Latta Namnama (ALN) MPC, Magsaysay Farmers MPC, Ligaya Multi Purpose and Transport Services Cooperative, and St. Niño Farmers MPC.

Diño said he issued an alert status on the shipment, since the DA ban on rice importation has not been officially lifted following reports of massive rice smuggling in the past through falsified NFA import permits.

He said he found it strange that Labangan Farmers First Consolidated MP is based in Bulanit, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, while Magsaysay Farmers MPC is based in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur, and yet their shipments are consigned to Subic in Luzon.

Multi-Grain MPC is based in Buga, San Miguel, Bulacan; Adda Latta MPC in East Natividad, Pangasinan; Ligaya MPC is Ligaya, Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental; and Sto. Niño Farmers MPC is based in Sto. Niño, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

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“Nakapagtaka kong bakit ang (It’s puzzling that the) port of discharge is Subic while these MPCs are based in Mindanao,” Diño said. “Mahiwagang (Mysterious) importation.”

Alleged massive rice smuggling in the past gave fake importers huge profits from, compromising the interest of Filipino farmers, Diño said.

Diño said he has also issued an order to hold the release of the controversial deformed steel bars imported from China in response to the order of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), recalling a previously granted clearance for the transport of the materials outside the Subic warehouse.

He has also issued an alert on the shipment of 100,000 metric tons of refined sugar from Thailand in the light of an acknowledgement letter issued by Randy Escolango, former officer-in-charge, Office of the Administrator.

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