DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was once named as “The Punisher” by Time Magazine, swore that he will track down the real person behind the alleged rice smuggler David Tan. The alleged rice smuggler operates not only in Davao City but in the entire country, and was previously found to use a fictitious name.
According to a report of the Senate joint committee, which investigated the existence of the rice smuggling cartel in the country, a certain David Tan was among the “financiers” of 26 cooperatives that cornered a big chunk of the rice importation of the National Food Authority.
“The name of David Tan kept coming up as a ‘smuggling lord’ operating in the country, and there has been a (court) injunction to it, but I have tried to track him down and found the name fictitious,” Duterte said during an interview in a television program “Gikan sa masa, para sa masa” last Sunday.
“Whoever is behind it (rice smuggling), once I track him down, I’m going to file a case before the Ombudsman,” Duterte said.
Duterte warned the rice smugglers not to mess with him in Davao City, as he would be forced to take up harsh measures, after several shipments of rice without the necessary import permits were seized at the Davao port.
“I want smuggling of rice in my city stopped. But if you still do not stop your smuggling activities, I will kill you,” Duterte warned, saying he does not want to see “even a single sack of rice smuggled in the city.”
“If still you refuse to stop smuggling rice into my city, then I will go to where you are and check on your warehouse using my visitorial rights. I will check on your electricity consumption, your books with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and business licenses and everything,” Duterte added.
Even as rice smuggling has been under the jurisdiction of national government agencies, Duterte said he would suspend the importers’ business permits if the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) asked for his help. The mayor also confirmed that BIR Commissioner Kim Henares has called him up again to catch his attention regarding rice smugglers operating at the Davao City port.
“The first things you will lose will be your business permits, and maybe your pants,” Duterte warned.
“I can make life harder for you,” he added.
The mayor also added that the entry of cheap, imported rice has been threatening the livelihood of millions of Filipino farmers, and the mayor said he would always fight for the farmers’ well-being.
Meanwhile, the lawyer of two rice importing firms whose shipments were held in the Davao port had cried foul over the “unlawful” seizure. They said that the government no longer had basis for imposing import permits after its Quantitative Restrictions (QR) for rice under the World Trade Organization (WTO) expired in June 2012.
Benito Salazar, the legal counsel of rice importing firms Silent Royalty Marketing and Starcraft, challenged the government to explain their position on the issue. Salazar mentioned that the government recent seizures violated the WTO ruling, and this action might put the Philippines in a bad light in international trade.
Duterte was able to meet yesterday with the representatives from the Bureau of Customs, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and other agencies involved in port operations to discuss rice smuggling.