Suspected rice smuggler’s BP pressure shoots up in Senate probe

March 12, 2014 10:26 am 

MANILA, March 11 – The blood pressure of a suspected rice smuggler shot up after getting contempt warning in a Senate inquiry into the rice smuggling on Tuesday.

Eugene Pioquinto, director of Star Craft International Trading Corp. which has been involved in rice smuggling, left midway of the Senate probe after experiencing dizziness few minutes after Sen. Cynthia Villar warned to cite him in contempt for “falsely testifying” in the Senate.

”He is now sick. Our lawyer advised us to give him a chance. We are humane, so we will do again the questioning next time,” Villar said.

Pioquinto kept on denying that he was handling and processing the import documents of other companies aside from Start Craft, including Jade Bros. Farms and Livestock Inc. of Emmanuel Santos.

”According to the report of the National Food Authority, you are working and processing documents in behalf of these companies and you and Mr. Santos were business partners,” Villar confronted Pioquinto.

”No, your honor. We’re just acquaintance,” Pioquinto insisted.

Pioquinto stopped denying only after Villar showed through a big screen pictures of Pioquinto and Santos eating and even traveling together.

Meanwhile, Villar ordered the respective lawyers of Santos and Judilyene Lim to submit to the committee the medical records that would certify that the three rice traders did not attend the inquiry due to health problem.

”If they will not comply with our requirements, they will be cited in contempt by this committee,” Villar said.

She also ordered the Senate medical team to check the health condition of Elizabeth Faustina, another suspected rice smuggler who recently underwent gall bladder operation.

Villar instructed anew the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to locate Lea Echeveria who remains missing despite efforts by the Senate Committee on Agriculture to find her for the last two years.

”Leah Echeveria is very important because of her, the farmers' cooperatives have been charged,” Villar said.

Villar said the Senate Committee on Agriculture will recommend the filing of charges against the suspected rice smugglers after one or two more hearings.

She also asked the NFA and the Department of Agriculture to double their efforts to curb the rampant rice smuggling.

On the legislation side, Villar said the Senate Committee on Agriculture will propose the establishment of national window system and computerization in the Bureau of Customs.

”We can also lower the interest of loans to the farmers to lessen their expenses,” Villar said.

As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Villar vowed to come up with proposals that would improve the welfare of the rice farmers and at the same time improve the rice production of the country.

To eliminate rice smuggling, the BOC recommended to Villar’s committee to give to the NFA the sole authority to import rice.

”There are so many companies which are importing rice. These are companies with only one owners. No more import permits because NFA has the sole authority to import,” Villar said. (PNA)

SCS/JFM

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