THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has filed smuggling charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against several individuals for illegal importation of more than P6 million worth of sugar from China. Charged were importer Godfrey T. Ta-oc, owner/proprietor of Lucky Sapphire Trading with office address at Stall B-22 Merwin Mart 3065 F.B. Harrison Street Brgy. 076 Pasay City; licensed Customs broker Arjay T. Dizon; and several others who acted as conspirators in the illegal act. Records show that the shipment, loaded in nine 20-foot container vans, arrived at the Port of Manila from China. They were misdeclared as steel tubes for scaffolding. The cargo has an approximate aggregate value of P6,237,174.78. Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon said the respondents willfully, knowingly and unlawfully imported into the country the refined white sugar thru the use of false documents and without the required valid Sugar Regulatory Agency (SRA) clearance. “You cannot do that! Hindi na kayo makakalusot [You won’t get past us anymore]. To all of you, traders, do not try that now because you will not succeed,” Faeldon warned. BoC spokesman Col. Neil Anthony Estrella said the respondents were charged with violation of Sections 1400, 1401 and 1403 in relation to Section 1113 (f), (i), (l) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA); Section 3 (a), (c), (e), (h) in relation to Section 4 of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act; rules and regulation of SRA and Joint Memorandum Order No. 4-2002; and Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code. Republic Act (RA) 10845 penalizes agricultural smugglers and involved cohorts with life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided. Under RA 10845, large-scale agricultural smuggling covers all importations of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish and cruciferous vegetables in their raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market. Illegal importations with a fair market value of P1 million or P10 million in the case of rice will fall under this classification. It states that large-scale agricultural smuggling is committed by importing or bringing goods into the Philippines without the required import permit, unauthorized use of import permits, using fake import permits or shipping documents, selling, lending, leasing, assigning, consenting or allowing the use of import permits, organizing or using dummy corporations or companies for the purpose of acquiring import permits, misclassification, undervaluation or misdeclaration to evade payment of lawful duties and taxes, transporting or storing the agricultural product subject to economic sabotage and acting as broker of the violating importer. Violators face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural products and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties, and other charges. Local offenders shall be penalized with perpetual disqualification to engage in importation, while alien offenders shall be deported after serving the sentence. Government officials involved in smuggling shall be punished with criminal liability and perpetual disqualification from public office.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL