MANILA, Feb. 6, 2014—Auxiliary Archbishop Broderick S. Pabillo of the Manila Archdiocese said he is deeply troubled by the organized smuggling of rice happening “right under our noses”.
In a phone interview, Pabillo told the CBCP News he resented that an activity of that magnitude could still be possible in a country with widespread incidents of hunger and poverty, especially in the rural areas.
The prelate, who also chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, rebuked the individuals behind rice smuggling whom he called “beyond indecent”.
The case involves among other alleged perpetrators, Filipino-Chinese businessman Davidson Bangayan whom Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte earlier accused of lording it over the multibillion-peso rice smuggling industry in the Philippines.
Before the Senate agricultural committee headed by Senator Cynthia A. Villar on Monday (February 3), Duterte pointed a finger at Bangayan, confirming allegations that he is the same person as the rice smuggler masquerading as “David Tan”.
He described Tan as allegedly the Number One Guy in rice smuggling in the Philippines whose influential network beyond his own base in Davao extends to the ports in Manila, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, and Cebu.
Davao City is one of the entry points for the illegal imports of rice, which is the staple food of Filipinos, Customs chief John Philip Sevilla stated.
The controversial mayor drew flak after he threatened to gun down Bangayan should he catch the latter red-handed smuggling rice into Davao, his turf, where he allegedly tolerates extra-judicial killings.
No less than Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, citing intelligence reports from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), said the Davao-based Bangayan is allegedly a “one-man cartel connected with officials at the Bureau of Customs and other government agencies”.
Pabillo feared that billions of pesos in government revenues are lost because of smuggling.
This money, the bishop added, could have gone into the “funding of important public projects like school buildings, roads, and others that would really benefit our people, most of all the less fortunate”.
“Bilyon-bilyong piso ang napupunta sa wala, nasasayang, taun-taon dahil sa napakasamang gawi ng mga mamumuslit na iyan,” the prelate explained in the vernacular. [Billions of pesos come to naught annually, because of what these unscrupulous smugglers are doing.]
Pabillo also asserted that these rice smugglers compete unfairly with our small-time rice farmers.
“Ninanakawan nila ng hanapbuhay ang ating maliliit na magsasaka,” Pabillo lamented. [They are depriving our farmers of their livelihood.] (Raymond A. Sebastián)