AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said he has banned “temporarily” from importing garlic a businesswoman linked to its smuggling pending results of an ongoing investigation into her alleged involvement.
“I will talk to the lawyers of the department and we will issue an order to temporarily (ban) because we can’t permanently ban them unless there is a valid legal ground. So, temporarily while conducting the investigation in their involvement to the garlic cartel,” Pinol told reporters at the Senate on Monday.
Leah Cruz is allegedly one of four “players” or importers linked to garlic smuggling, according to Sen. Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate committee on agriculture.
A list furnished by Villar showed that Player A, led by Cruz, has 24 “affiliated” importers; Player B, 18 importers; Player C, 10; and Player D, 3.
“It’s a group. That’s a cartel. They will appear to be different but actually they are a group,” said Villar.
Pinol said it was Villar who recommended that Cruz be banned “temporarily” from importing garlic.
“You tell me what will I do with her. Unless there is an official, like for example today I asked the chair (Villar) of the agriculture committee what is your advice she said, ‘You ban.’ Okay, I will ban (Cruz),” Pinol said.
Pinol said that in 2014, the Senate agriculture panel released a report recommending the filing of charges against several importers of agriculture products allegedly involved in garlic smuggling.
The list included alleged rice smuggler David Bangayan and Cruz.
“We talked to the DoJ (Department of Justice) and they said the resolution had been finished 3 years ago but no case has yet been filed,” Pinol added. BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO