Rice smuggling rap non-bailable — Ping
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2017 - 4:00pm

The rice smuggling rap against National Food Administrator Jason Aquino and ex-Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon is the first ever under the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016. The value of grains sneaked in from Vietnam is P34 million, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleges. Under the new law any rice smuggling over P10 million is economic sabotage, hence a non-bailable capital offense punishable by life imprisonment.

Lacson says the case is so tight that the Ombudsman readily will find probable cause. He expects indictment before the Sandiganbayan within a few weeks. Faeldon and Aquino naturally will exert all efforts to stay out of jail.

A former Marine officer, Faeldon had been in military stockade before, for participating in the July 2003 mutiny against President Gloria Arroyo. Imprisoned with him then were Army officers Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo, and the Navy’s James Layug. Faeldon had brought them with him to the Customs in July 2016. All four resigned last Aug., as the Senate investigated the smuggling into the Manila port of 604 kilos of shabu (meth) worth P6.5 billion.

President Rodrigo Duterte deems them, staunch political allies, innocent. The four were 1995 classmates at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Arroyo, now a congresswoman, is also with Duterte’s super-majority in the House of Representatives.

Fellow-mutineers and prison mates were their PMA 1995 batch mates Antonio Trillanes (Navy), Gary Alejano (Marines), and Ashley Asedillo (Air Force). Trillanes, now a senator, present congressman Alejano, and past congressman Asedillo are with the oppositionist Magdalo party. Trillanes accuses Faeldon et al of abetting the narco-smuggling by accepting “tara” (protection money).

Aquino too landed in military prison for joining, as an Army Scout Ranger major, the Feb. 2006 mutiny also against Arroyo. His jailor then was Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon, now Duterte’s national security adviser. Aquino was with the PMA Class of 1991.

Lacson, also from the PMA (1971), once headed the Philippine National Police. Before that he was with the para-military Philippine Constabulary.

The rice smuggling charge that Lacson filed last week involved 40,000 sacks in 77 cargo containers brought into Cagayan de Oro last Mar. 9 and 16. From official records, he says, no import duties were pre-paid as required or import permits shown. Customs-Cagayan de Oro personnel promptly confiscated the contraband that the consignee abandoned. Two months later on May 17 Aquino belatedly issued a bogus permit, Lacson adds, with expiration ante-dated Apr. 4, well after the seizure. Faeldon then allegedly ordered the contraband returned in June to Cebu Lite Trading Inc., after belated payment of P14 million taxes. Lacson says the “conspiracy”blunted the Customs’ auction of the rice for at least P34 million.

“No truth to it,” Aquino says of the complaint. Supposedly the NFA governing council had extended from end-Feb. to end-June 2017 all import quotas granted by the past administration in May 2016. Thirty-five percent duties were paid in advance to the Land Bank, as required. Covered were 104 permits, from which P553 million were collected.

“There was no ante-dating,” Aquino adds. He admits to signing only in May 2017 all the permits validly processed in Mar. The procedure is for the NFA to process the permit upon importers' submission of bills of lading, packing lists, and other papers. Signing should be within seven days, after which copies are sent to Customs.

Faeldon did not reply to requests for comments. He has claimed that Lacson is only getting back at him for alleging cement smuggling by the senator’s son. Faeldon never filed any such case during his Customs tenure, though.

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“Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” the socially awakening cinema hit of the 1970s, is being restaged as a musicale. Social activists and lovers of literature and the arts can catch the last play dates this weekend.

The legendary Lino Brocka directed the 1975 film about the harsh exploitative realities of life in the big city. Starring Hilda Koronel, Lou Salvador Jr., and Tommy Abuel, and debuting Bembol Roco, "Maynila" won nine major FAMAS awards, and later was critically acclaimed worldwide. Cinematography was by Mike de Leon. Edgardo M. Reyes first serialized the novelette in Liwayway Magazine in 1966-1967. It led the social realism in literature of the time, and Clodualdo del Mundo Jr. transformed it into a screenplay as a post-graduate schoolwork.

Multi-award winning film and stage artist Joel Lamangan directs the musicale version. "Up to now the opportunities for the poor are much less, much smaller than the rich," laments Lamangan, an activist with Brocka in the 1970s. "The exploitation of women, especially from the provinces, continues; they are recruited for work but are fed to white slavers. There are still so many Julio Madiagas and Ligaya Paraisos among us. Nothing has changed since the time of Brocka.”

Composition and musical direction by Von de Guzman; libretto by Jose Victor Torres and Em Mendez; production design by Jun Flavier Pablo; lighting by Joey Nombres; choreography by Douglas Nierras.

Arman Ferrer stars as Julio Madiaga; Lara Maigue alternates with Sheila Valderrama-Martinez as Ligaya Paraiso.

Wednesday to Friday, Oct. 4-6, at 8 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinee on the last day, at Kia Theater (formerly New Frontier), Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. For tickets, call Bards Lapid, +63917 8466704; or landlines (02) 8977142, (02) 8900853, (02) 8906067; or Ticketnet (02) 9115555.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA


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