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Suko agad? Cynthia says it’s futile to go after smugglers: They are too rich to be prosecuted!

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Senator Cynthia Villar thinks going after smugglers was a no-win situation because they are too filthy rich, it will be a miracle if a judge will put them to jail.

Villar, whose husband is the rihest Filipino, former Seator Manny Villar, made the statement after Senator Kiko Pangilinan cited the failure of the Rice Tariffication Act, her pet legislation, to curb smuggling.

“I remember noong 2014 po na bago akong senador, isang taon akong nag-hearing tungkol sa NFA (National Food Authority) at sa cartel. Ni-refer po natin ito sa DOJ (Department of Justice) at wala pong nangyari,” said Villar in a Senate session.

“We even passed a law declaring large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage and non-bailable. Ang dami pong nahuli na nag-smuggle ng rice, wala naman pong nakulong. Kaya tayo ngayon–ako po, kung ako ang tatanungin ninyo, let us stop prosecuting. We cannot prosecute.

They are so rich to be prosecuted,” she added.

Instead of going after smugglers, Villar said the government should just focus on “developmental work and make it work.”

“Ito na lamang po ang pag-asa ng ating mga farmers to be competitive and profitable at long last,” said Villar. Villar was reacting Pangilinan’s privilege speech that smuggling continued to persist despite the shift from a quota to tariff system on rice imports.

Pangilinan cited two ways how smugglers continue to beat the system: 1) Lower the value of rice imports by downgrading its quality.

“Kung ang totoong value ng bili nila ng rice sa Vietnam ay $375 dollars per ton, they will just declare it at $275 dollars per ton. I-declare nila sa 25 percent broken na bigas iyon pala 5 percent broken lang.”

2) Undervalue rice imports through quantity.

“Ang isang crate or 20-foot container ang laman ay 500 sacks, ang idedeklara nila 400 sacks lamang. Ibig sabihin nito, may sabwatan sa Customs at sa mga trader.”

Pangilinan said smugglers actually preferred the tariff system because it allowed for an unlimited quantity of rice imports.

“Mas gusto nila ito dahil mas mahirap mahuli at may appearance ng legit. Ang term na ginagamit nila, ang illegal nagiging legit.

At alam natin na kapag may rice smuggling, naiipit pa rin ang mga magsasaka natin sa sobrang babang presyo ng bigas na pinapasok,” he said.

Villar argued that the government has its own tools to curb over importation of rice, such as the Department of Agriculture invoking “phytosanitary powers” or raising quality standards to bar imports.

“It is just that we do not talk about it because this is being done informally by other countries also,” she said.

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