SEN. Risa Hontiveros is keen on imposing tougher penalties against government officials and employees in cahoots with smugglers of agricultural products.
The lawmaker is pressing for the timely passage of amendments in Republic Act (RA) 10845, also known as the Anti-Agriculture Smuggling Act.
In filing the enabling legislation embodied in Senate Bill (SB) 2205, the senator sought to prosecute and impose stiffer sanctions against government officials and employees found in conspiracy with agri smugglers.
Hontiveros introduced SB 2205 to amend certain provisions of RA 10845 to criminalize government and employees officials who are found conniving with large-scale agricultural smugglers.
“Since the law’s passage in 2016, even if there have been many reports of the seizure of smuggled products, there has been no prosecution of individuals, groups, or corporations under the law,” the senator said.
In a statement, Hontiveros deplored that “there has been no prosecution of government officials for facilitating and abetting acts of agricultural smuggling that amount to large-scale economic sabotage.”
She added: “As a result, smuggling activities continue with impunity.”
Under the proposed measure, “any act by a public employee or officer that allows the importation into the country without the needed import permit shall be declared as economic sabotage.”
“In the sugar fiasco that is still unfolding, for example,” the senator noted that “documented accounts show that tens of thousands of metric tons of sugar—a regulated commodity—were allowed into the country without a sugar order.”
Hontiveros also said the “approval or issuance by a public employee or officer of any license, declaration, clearance, or permit, knowing that it is manifestly unlawful, inequitable, or irregular, will also be considered economic sabotage.”
She also warned that “any person who violates the measure will face life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product, including the taxes, duties, and other charges avoided plus interest at the legal rate.”
The senator noted that the prescription period or the time within which charges can be filed is 20 years.
She said “agricultural smuggling is costing the government billions of pesos a year in lost revenues,” adding that smuggling of regulated agricultural commodities “also led to high prices for consumers, the violation of our competition laws, and most importantly, the further decline of our domestic agricultural sector.”
In her explanatory note, she stressed that “it is time to hold to account government officials who allow smuggling to persist unfettered.”
Image credits: Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB