The Anakpawis party-list on Saturday challenged a Bureau of Customs official to file a smuggling case against former Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres for attempting to negotiate the release of at least 64 containers loaded with smuggled sugar worth P100 million that was intercepted in August this year.
“Customs Chief (Alberto) Lina should walk his talk and file immediately a criminal complaint against Torres and her two companions which are obviously part of a group partaking in the illegal sugar trade. If they were not part of a sugar smuggling activity, why would they want to arrange the release of the containers knowing that these are smuggled sugar?” Rep. Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
“The customs department admitted that billions of pesos worth of revenues are lost due to rampant smuggling of rice, sugar and other various trade products. In sugar alone, government data said that there are around $18.6 million uncollected tax on sugar imports because of smuggling,” Hicap added.
The militant lawmaker also said that Torres and her partners attempted to sabotage the economy because smuggling is a grave criminal offense.
The Bureau of Customs earlier filed criminal charges against two Koreans and three Filipinos for the alleged smuggling of sugar that was misdeclared as bitumen, an oil based substance used for road surfacing and roofing, before the Department of Justice.
The agency, which asked the DOJ to investigate and file the criminal charges, said 21 forty-footer container vans arrived at the Manila International Container Port from July 29, 2015 to July to August 21, 2015 with Rainbow Holdings Inc. (RHI) as the consignee.
Torres, a shooting buddy and provincemate of President Aquino, was dragged into the case when she was accused of trying to facilitate the release of the seized sugar.
Lina said the traders, in connivance with their brokers, misdeclared the importation to evade payment of duties and taxes and that the importing firms have no permits from the Sugar Regulatory Administration.
Malacañang on Thursday said the president will not interfere in the filing of smuggling charges against Torres.
Hicap, however, expressed doubt that President Aquino will not help Torres in the mess she is involved in. He said the former LTO chief is valuable to Aquino because she is instrumental for maintaining the aryendo system inside Hacienda Luisita.
Aryendo system is an illicit land lease agreement under the guise of sugar block farming scheme, which is approved by the Department of Agrarian Reform for implementation in Hacienda Luisita so the President’s kin can retain control of the lands that were distributed to the farmers.