THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has found probable cause to charge alleged rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan and five others, including Cebuano businessman David Lim and his wife, Judilyne, for rice trade monopoly.
David is the brother of Cebuano businessman Peter Lim, who was named a drug lord by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.
The DOJ, in its ruling, said the Lim couple, Bangayan, Elizabeth Faustino, Eleanor Rodriguez and Leah Echeveria violated Paragraph 3, Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for “combining with and employing the concerned farmers’ cooperatives and organizations to participate in the bidding of rice importations with the intention of manipulating and increasing the market price of the supply.”
In the resolution signed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Miguel Gudio Jr., the DOJ said witnesses pointed to Bangayan and Faustino as the ones financing the farmers’ cooperatives so that they could cooperate in the bidding for rice procurement.
Rodriguez acted as broker of import requirements, while Echeveria signed the bank accounts used in rice importation transactions.
The Lims allegedly acted as financers of cooperatives Kapatirang Takusa MPC, Ugnayang Magbubukid ng San Isidro Inc., Samahan ng Kapampangan at Katagalugan MPC and Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Kalawitan MPC.
These cooperatives, according to the Office of the Prosecutor General, were used as dummies in the bidding of rice importations to manipulate the price of rice in the market.
“The financial and technical support provided by the respondents to these farmers’ cooperatives, to the extent of undertaking all the processing of the governmental requirements and paying all the necessary expenses, as well as the fact that the cooperatives were required to assign their respective importations only to the respondents, clearly indicate respondents’ intention to use these entities as dummies with the end in view of monopolizing and manipulating the rice supply in the country,” said the DOJ.
The DOJ likewise indicted Bangayan for the unlawful use of the alias “David Tan” in violation of Commonwealth Act 142.
It, however, junked the complaint against the respondents for violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act, saying the bidding for rice importations through farmers’ cooperatives is not considered a form of government procurement.
It also cleared Eugene Pioquinto, Mary Joyce Lim, Jason Colocado, Michael Villanueva, Denis Gonzales, Willy Sy, Sandra Lim, Gil Calipayan, and Inigo Espiritu from all charges.
The complaint, filed by the National Bureau of Investigation, stemmed from a series of Senate hearings in 2014 into an alleged rice cartel that manipulates the supply of rice in the country to increase the price of rice in the market.
Duterte, who was then Davao mayor, testified during the Senate hearing, where he was invited as a resource person to shed light on the allegations that Bangayan is doing business in Davao City.
Meanwhile, the legal counsel of the Lim couple said on Thursday, Nov. 15, that his clients observe the law and rules and regulations when doing business.
“What monopoly they are talking about? It was good that they filed the case in court so the prosecution can present evidence and my clients can disprove the accusations to clear their names once and for all,” said lawyer Steve Mendoza.
He said it is unfair to accuse his clients of doing something they didn’t do as they never participated in any rice bidding.
“This is the reason we filed immediately a motion to quash the case because our clients never violated any law. My clients have nothing to do with accusation,” Mendoza said.
National Food Authority (NFA) 7 Director Fernando Nuñez said they have in their list about 800 licensed retailers, wholesalers and traders.
The Lims and their co-accused are not on it. (from Sun Star Philippines, EOB)