Villar challenges DOJ to win cases vs high-profile personalities
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.
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)