Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City on Monday said he will not hesitate to kill Davidson Bangayan if he saw him smuggling rice in his city.
Appearing at the resumption of the Senate probe on rice smuggling, Duterte also said Bangayan and David Tan were one and the same.
“If this guy would go to Davao and start to unload [smuggled rice]and I catch him, I will gladly kill him,” he said.
Duterte told members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food that besides the information he got from the intelligence community, rice traders and personalities in related sectors pointed to Bangayan as the go-to-guy when it comes to rice smuggling.
He said Commissioner Kim Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) had asked him to help the bureau stop the smuggling of the staple in the Port of Davao.
Duterte said he organized a meeting with officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP) and rice traders to gather more information on the extent of rice smuggling.
“The name David Tan keeps on cropping up as the center figure in rice smuggling in the country. Anyone who wants to import rice into the country will have to go to him, including the farmers’ groups,” he said.
Bangayan, the mayor said, was not from Davao but he goes to the city once a year to inquire about the importation of scrap metal, fertilizers and rice. The mayor said he never intended to interfere in the work of the Customs bureau in the port of Davao because he may be suspected of being interested in the importation of goods. But he said he will not allow the city to become one of the smuggling centers in the country.
Duterte’s positive identification of Bangayan prompted Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito to suggest citing Bangayan for contempt for lying about his identity.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile then moved to cite Bangayan for contempt and the Senate committee headed by Sen. Cynthia Villar approved.
“The committee felt that he [Bangayan] was lying that is why we will hold him in contempt,” Villar said.
The panel also directed the Senate legal counsel to prepare perjury charges against Bangayan before Friday. It also asked the Department of Justice to put Bangayan on its watch list and the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel his passport.
Villar said the panel decided not to detain Bangayan in the Senate since he has been attending the hearings.
After the hearing, Bangayan was rearrested by the NBI over a separate case of electricity pilferage he is facing before a Caloocan City court.
“We were advised by the executive judge that the original warrant of arrest, even if it says ‘David Tan who is not Davidson Bangayan,’ can be used as basis for the immediate arrest of Davidson Bangayan because of the additional proof that we have,” said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
De Lima said a representative from the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has positively identified Bangayan as David Tan.
Bangayan posted a P40,000 bail a few hours after his arrest.
At the Senate hearing, Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis asked the government to go beyond the arrest of Bangayan and dismantle cartels who control rice smuggling in the country.
Hicap said “the Senate hearings on rice smuggling should also unearth the extent of rice cartel operations in the country.”
He said the cartel is made up of rice traders, their dummy organizations and cooperatives and government officials who serve as patrons or “padrinos.”
A series of committee on agriculture and food hearings conducted since last year discovered that rice smugglers use farmers’ cooperatives as fronts to import rice worth millions of pesos.
Hicap, who represents the farmers, earlier said smuggled rice pulls down the prices of palay, lowering profits for local farmers.
He also called for the firing of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag for their failure to stop rice smuggling.
“Heads must roll at the DA and NFA over rice smuggling. Massive rice smuggling happened right under their noses and they didn’t do anything to stop it,” Hicap said.
He said the NFA allowed five out of 31 applicants to for import the staple. The top importer on the list, Startcraft International Trading that is linked to Tan, was allowed to bring in 5,000 metric tons of rice in 2013.
The House Committee on Agriculture has yet to conduct its own investigation on rice smuggling.
A Customs official admitted on Monday that while he has not met any of the big time smugglers, they were “popular at the bureau.”
Deputy Customs Commissioner Agaton Uvero revealed what he called the Big 17, smugglers who try to get around the bureau’s rules and bring in thousands of containers of illegal imports.
They have been at it for five years, Uvero said.
He said the bureau does not only have to deal with big smugglers or but even with ordinary businessmen who sneak in smaller amounts of contraband.
These small smugglers number in the thousands, Uvero said.
“I think we have the same reform agenda for players or small smugglers,” he said.
Customs Deputy Commissioner Ariel Nepomuceno said the assignment of the team leader in a particular area would be at random so that the “usual network will be controlled and accountability at the BOC will be established.”
“We still don’t have enough [x-ray] equipment, so we have to go back to basics,” he said.
District collectors will now be involved in the operation of x-ray machines.
With reports from Jaime Pilapil and Robertzon F. Ramirez