Vil­lar chal­lenges DOJ to win cases vs high-pro­file per­son­al­i­ties

Manila Bulletin - - News - By VANNE P. TERRAZOLA

Se­na­tor Cyn­thia Vil­lar be­lieves that now is the chance for the De­part­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) to prove that it can win cases against high-pro­file per­son­al­i­ties in­volved in rice smug­gling and ma­nip­u­la­tion of rice prices.

Vil­lar is­sued the chal­lenge Satur­day while laud­ing the DOJ af­ter it found prob­a­ble cause to in­dict sus­pected rice smug­gler David­son Ban­gayan and five oth­ers with mo­nop­o­lies and com­bi­na­tions in re­straint of trade in vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cle 186, para­graph 3 of the Re­vised Pe­nal Code (RPC). “This is an op­por­tu­nity for the De­part­ment of Jus­tice to show na kaya ng nila mag­panalo ng kaso (that they can win cases) against these peo­ple,” Vil­lar said in a ra­dio in­ter­view.

The se­na­tor said she is elated with the de­vel­op­ment as she has long been call­ing for the pros­e­cu­tion of al­leged rice smug­glers and car­tel lead­ers.

Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Me­nardo Gue­varra on Satur­day said the DOJ will file with the proper court in Taguig City within the week charges against Ban­gayan and five other.

Vil­lar, who chairs the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture, has been la­ment­ing about the DOJ's in­ac­tion on the is­sue de­spite her panel's rec­om­men­da­tion in 2014 about the fil­ing of charges against Ban­gayan and other sus­pected rice smug­glers.

“Fi­nally magfa-file sila kasi sig­uro nakita nila ang masamang epekto ng smug­gling at car­tel sa at­ing mga prices. Kasi 'di ba nagkaprob­lema tayo sa in­fla­tion (Fi­nally the DOJ will file charges, maybe be­cause they saw the ef­fects of smug­gling and car­tel on our prices. We had a prob­lem on in­fla­tion),” she said.

Aside from Vil­lar, Sen. Joseph Vic­tor Ejercito wel­comed the DOJ's move to pros­e­cute Ban­gayan.

“Sa wakas (Fi­nally)! May kaka­suhan na rin na Big Fish sa ilalim ng batas na ak­ing in­akda ang Anti-Agri­cul­tural Smug­gling Law (A Big Fish would be charged for vi­o­lat­ing the Anti-Agri­cul­tural Smug­gling Law which I au­thored)! The DOJ must make sure it has a strong case and those re­spon­si­ble be pros­e­cuted to the fullest ex­tent of the law,”Ejercito said in a text mes­sage.

‘Wealthy peo­ple’

Vil­lar said she is con­fi­dent that the DOJ has a strong case against Ban­gayan and his al­leged co­horts, but rather would not let her guard down since the case in­volves "wealthy" per­son­al­i­ties.

“Alam na­man natin na may prob­lema tayo sa at­ing (We know that we have a prob­lem in our) jus­tice sys­tem, of­ten times it doesn’t work. Pero umaasa tayo pero alam natin na magig­ing mahi­rap (While we are hope­ful, we know that it would be dif­fi­cult),” she con­fessed.

“Alam mo 'yong mga in­volved di yan may mga pera din, bakit gagawa ng some­thing il­le­gal eh may pera ka na? Kaya lang gi­na­gawa nila kasi wala na­man nag-pros­e­cute (You know those in­volved there have wealth and money, why would they do some­thing il­le­gal? They are do­ing it be­cause they knew that no one would pros­e­cute),” she noted.

Vil­lar said she would mon­i­tor the case closely as she stressed the need for a “sam­ple” on the penal­ties of law.

“Ting­nan natin ano mangya­yari sa kaso kasi baka ma-file lang ang kaso wala rin mangya­yari (Let's see what will hap­pen with the case charges filed may end up in vain),” she added.

Pres­i­dent Duterte, then Davao City mayor was one of the wit­nesses in Vil­lar com­mit­tee’s 2014 probe, had al­leged that Ban­gayan was no­to­ri­ous for smug­gling in his turf.

Ban­gayan’s co-re­spon­dents are Eliz­a­beth Faustino; spouses David Lim and Judi­lynne Lim; Eleanor Ro­driguez; and Leah Echev­e­ria.

Apart from vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cle 186, para­graph 3 of the Re­vised Pe­nal Code, the DOJ also found prob­a­ble cause to in­dict Ban­gayan for vi­o­la­tion of Com­mon­wealth Act No. 142 (An Act to Reg­u­late the Use of Aliases), as amended by R.A. No. 6085, for the unau­tho­rized use of the alias “David Tan.” (With a re­port from Jef­frey G. Dam­icog)

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