Senator Risa Hontiveros wants to prosecute government employees and officials who conspire with agricultural smugglers.
Hontiveros introduced Senate Bill No. 2205 to amend certain provisions of Republic Act No. 10845, also known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, to criminalize government and employees officials who are found conniving with large-scale agricultural smugglers.
“Since the law’s passage in 2016, even if there have been many reports of the seizure of smuggled products, there has been no prosecution of individuals, groups, or corporations under the law,” she said.
“There has been no prosecution of government officials for facilitating and abetting acts of agricultural smuggling that amount to large-scale economic sabotage. As a result, smuggling activities continue with impunity,” Hontiveros furthered.
Under the proposed measure, any act by a public employee or officer that allows the importation into the country without the needed import permit shall be declared as economic sabotage.
“In the sugar fiasco that is still unfolding, for example, documented accounts show that tens of thousands of metric tons of sugar – a regulated commodity – were allowed into the country without a sugar order,” Hontiveros said.
The approval or issuance by a public employee or officer of any license, declaration, clearance, or permit, knowing that it is manifestly unlawful, inequitable, or irregular, will also be considered economic sabotage.
Any person who violates the measure will face life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product, including the taxes, duties, and other charges avoided plus interest at the legal rate.
The prescription period or the time within which charges can be filed is 20 years.
“Agricultural smuggling is costing the government billions of pesos a year in lost revenues. The smuggling of regulated agricultural commodities has also led to high prices for consumers, the violation of our competition laws, and most importantly, the further decline of our domestic agricultural sector,” Hontiveros said in the explanatory note.
“It is time to hold to account government officials who allow smuggling to persist unfettered,” she concluded.