7 rice traders face Senate detention

December 17, 2012 11:33 pm 

By Jelly Musico

MANILA, Dec. 17 –- Eight rice traders facing arrest have finally showed up in the Senate inquiry into rice smuggling Monday but only one of them returned home.

Senate committee on food and agriculture chairman Francis Pangilinan said the seven rice traders have been held in custody pending the final decision of other committee members on whether or not they should be detained for ignoring the Senate’s subpoenas.

”It is clear in their testimonies that they ignored the arrest order. They did not follow the Senate’s order. They went into hiding,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan was referring to rice traders Mary Joyce Lim of Loui London Traiding; Inigo Espiritu of Nemic Fusion Rice and Trains Enterprises; Jason Colocado of Pure Country Traiding; Denis Gonzales of St. Dominique Rice and Food Enterprises; Jenny Reyes and Eugene Guiang Pioquinto of West Point Rice and Cereals Enterprises; Michael Villanueva of Jaded Ranch Grains Trading; and, Sandra Lim of Lexant International Trading.

Sandra Lim, five months pregnant, has been allowed to go home due to her health condition.

”The rest of the eight will have to be in the custody of OSAA (Office of Sergeant-At-Arms) until we decide in the committee on what to do with them,” Pangilinan said.

All the eight rice traders claimed a certain Willy Sy asked them to submit bidding documents at the National Food Authority for the importation of the 190,000 tons of rice.

Pangilinan said Sy is one of the traders who allegedly financed the service fees ranging from P57 to P63 million needed by each of the eight rice traders in their bid to get import permit from the NFA.

”There is an allegation that there is a financier who gave envelope containing P63 million. Others receive P59 million, P57 million which did not really come from the cooperative. The traders did spend single cent,” Pangilinan said.

The traders claimed that Sy gave them P100,000 each for winning the bidding to import rice and even promised to give P5 each of every bag of rice they could sell to the local market.

The Senate panel, meanwhile, ordered five other rice traders to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for not telling the truth to the committee.

The five include Ricardo Gatuz Jr. of Formosa Multipurpose Cooperative; Ronaldo Valdez of Sitio Muzon Farmers; Zenaida Abanio of Sta. Cecilia; Felix Villena Sr. of Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunalaran; and, Elizabeth Faustino of Biklat.

All the five rice traders told the committee that they stayed in a rented house for three days but their company Juanito Evangelista of Revierview claimed that they hide there for 10 days from Nov. 7 to 18.

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile asked National Bureau of Investigation deputy director for special investigation services Atty Edmundo Arugay to investigate the rice farmers and traders being used as dummies by certain individuals to get import permit from the NFA.

”Investigate this. Why are these people being used as front to import. Who are using them and how much profit (had) gone to them. This is a serious matter,” Enrile said.

Enrile lambasted the NFA for its failure to monitor individuals using the farmers cooperatives to import 190,000 tons of the country’s 500,000-ton rice shortage every year.

Pangilinan said one or two more hearings will be held in January next year, hoping to convince Willy Sy and explain his side. (PNA)

HBC/JFM

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