The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a measure that seeks to serve as a “permanent deterrent” to hoarders and price manipulators of basic commodities by imposing a life sentence as the maximum penalty for offenders.
With the viva voce approval of House Bill 9284, or the Anti-Agri-fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act of 2023, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said the legislative chamber has just put more teeth into the country’s anti-smuggling law.
“This is because we want to have a chilling effect on these cartels that have been operating for decades now. We really mean business this time. And our primary task here is to protect the welfare of the masses—to provide them with the most affordable goods in the market,” he said.
“President Marcos, as Chief Executive and Secretary of Agriculture, fully appreciates the adverse impact of the smuggling of rice and other staples on farmers, fishermen, and consumers. We share his concern for the affected sectors,” the Speaker said.
Romualdez said once the measure becomes a law, it would protect farmers and fishermen from smugglers, especially in times when prices are manipulated and agricultural products are hoarded.
“We have to shield them from these atrocious activities to encourage them to produce more rice and other staples so the country can attain food sufficiency,” Romualdez said.
House Committee on Agriculture and Food chairman Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga said HB 9284, or the Anti-Agri-fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act of 2023, would amend Republic Act (RA) 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, to include the smuggling of agri-fishery commodities and tobacco products as economic sabotage.
The bill refers to economic sabotage as any act or activities that undermine, weaken, or render into disrepute the economic system or viability of the country or tend to bring about such effects, particularly for this proposal.
The measure added that the crime of large-scale agri-fishery commodities or tobacco smuggling as economic sabotage involves agri-fishery commodities in their raw state or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market, such as freezing, drying, salting, broiling, roasting, smoking, or stripping, with a minimum aggregate fair market value of P1 million, or involving tobacco with a minimum of excise tax and VAT payable in the amount of P1 million.
It said agri-fishery commodities refer, but are not limited, to rice, sugar, corn, pork, poultry, beef, lamb, garlic, onion, carrots, cruciferous vegetables, coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm olein, wheat, fish, and shellfish.
The bill provides a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of six times the fair market value of agri-fishery commodities or tobacco subject to large-scale smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, cartelizing, and other acts of market abuse, and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties, and other charges avoided plus interest at the prevailing legal rate shall be imposed on entities who commit any of the acts numerated under this proposal.
Also, the measure added that the penalty of imprisonment of not less than 30 years but not more than 40 years and a fine six times the fair market value of agri-fishery commodities or tobacco subject to large-scale smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, cartelizing, and other acts of market abuse and the aggregate amount the taxes, duties, and other charges avoided plus the interest at the prevailing legal rate shall be imposed on entities who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, consent, or allow the unauthorized use of their import permits for purposes of large-scale smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, cartelizing, or the other acts of market abuse.