Alcala maintains innocence on alleged Quezon rice cartel

January 16, 2014 11:24 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Jan. 16 (PNA) — Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Thursday maintained he does not know of any rice cartel in his home province of Quezon.

"Kung may milagro sa DA, i-demanda niya ako," referring to the accusation by a lawyer stating that the alleged smuggling king David Tan was just a phantom created to deflect attention away from the plunder complaint filed earlier against the DA Secretary and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag over the alleged importation of overpriced rice from Vietnam.

"Gusto lang nilang i-derail ang mga ginagawa ko para ma-out of focus. Mas marami akong obligasyon sa mga magsasaka at mangingisda," he stressed.

Argee Guevarra, president of the Sanlakas party-list group, has called on the public to refocus its attention on the alleged DA's monopoly on rice imports, which favors a new rice cartel operated by the "Quezon mafia."

Guevarra vowed to expose the members of the supposed Quezon mafia which, he said, was headed by their "godfather" — Alcala.

"I will come out with the list of the Quezon mafia members as soon as I’ve completed gathering all the information regarding the group," he said.

Alcala advised the head of the Sanlakas party-list group to detail information on the supposed Quezon mafia.

"Dapat i-detalye niya (Guevarra) kung ano ang mafia. Kawawa naman ang aking (mga) kababayan," he said.

"Mas maganda na ang coordination ng DA, BOC (Bureau of Customs), and NFA (National Food Authority), kasi tinatawagan kami ng BOC kaya maraming huli," he added.

Meanwhile, DA Undersecretary and Spokesman Emerson Palad said the entire staff of the DA is saddened by the "seemingly incessant barrage of malicious and wrongful accusations and insinuations by lawyer Argee Guevarra against Secretary Alcala and the NFA."

"We urge Atty. Gueverra to bring his allegations to the proper forum so these could be addressed accordingly," said Palad in a statement.

"Secretary Alcala maintains innocence in all of Atty. Guevarra’s baseless claims, and does not allow these issues to hamper his day-to-day activities for the sake of our clientele — the Filipino farmers and fishers," he added.

It would be recalled that Guevarra filed plunder complaint against Alcala and Calayag in December before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing P457.2 million from a P4.1-billion rice importation deal with Vietnam during the early months of 2013.

In a 10-page criminal complaint, Guevarra also accused Alcala and Calayag of violating various provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by entering into what he called a manifestly and grossly disadvantageous contract.

He also assailed Alcala for allegedly trying to cover up his plunder case by demonizing a certain David Tan as the Goliath in rice smuggling, "when the truth is out that there is no David Tan from Davao to speak of but a Davidson Bangayan from Manila whose brush with the law is for allegedly pilfering electricity, not rice smuggling."

Alcala, however, said there are people who vouched that Davidson Bangayan and David Tan is one and the same person.

"Iniimbitahan (namin) ang grupo na (magbigay) ng affidavit para i-pin down na iisa lang tao yung dalawang names (Bangayan and Tan)," he said.

"Di lang ito usapin ng DA kundi ng buong bayan," he added.

Rosendo So, head of the newly-formed Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said all traders, retailers, and cooperatives involved in rice smuggling know Bangayan, alias David Tan.

"Madali silang mag-deny, pero of course, marami namang nakaka-alam n'yan," said So, former representative of Abono party-list.

According to So, Tan started his alleged smuggling operations during the Arroyo administration and his business reportedly started to flourish in 2011.

He claims that Tan's group uses several strategies to be able to enter illegally imported rice into the country such as underdeclaration, misdeclaration, and re-use of import permits.

"This is the reason why some rice millers, instead of buying palay, find it more profitable to buy rice from Tan as they do not have to go through the milling and packaging process. No wonder some rice millers have become mere rice traders, their milling houses converted to warehouses," he said. (PNA)

SCS/LGI

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