Anti-agri smuggling courts pushed

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Despite all the issues on smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and agricultural cartels, no one has ever been convicted since the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 10845, Sen. Cynthia Villar said Thursday, as she pressed for the passage of a measure creating special courts against farm smuggling.

Presiding over a Senate hearing of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform on measures seeking to amend RA 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Law, Villar said the law was enacted for the purpose of protecting farmers and the local agricultural industry from smuggling.

However, the lawmaker lamented that “we could barely feel the positive impact of this law.”

Among the amendments proposed in the Villar bill are: inclusion of acts of hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural products in its list of crimes involving “economic sabotage” and the creation of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Task Force, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Court, and a special team of prosecutors to assist the task force in the expeditious prosecution of cases under the law.

“The bills we are tackling will amend certain sections of RA 10845 otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, to include the acts of hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products as economic sabotage,” she added.

The senator reminded that in 2016, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, was enacted for the purpose of protecting local agricultural industry and farmers from agricultural smuggling.

Moreover, she recalled that early this year, the Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform conducted a hearing in aid of legislation on the soaring market price of onions noting that the committee found out that “cartels over import the onions thereby fixing the price of local onions.”

The senator also noted that “hoarders, in collusion, store these supplies in the cold storage to create a shortage so that the price would go up,” lamenting that it was “a clear scenario of price manipulation.”

“We were also baffled to find out that with all the issues on smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products, no one has ever been convicted since the law was passed in 2016,” she said.

The senator reported that through that hearing, the panel was able to come up with Committee Report No. 25 on the Soaring Market Prices of Local Onions, including recommendations as follows: 1) Amendment of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to include profiteering, hoarding and smuggling in its list of crimes involving economic sabotage; 2) Creation and establishment of the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Task Force” directly under the control and supervision of the Office of the President to serve and protect the entire agricultural sector; 3) Creation of an Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Court that shall try and hear the cases in violation of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, which is the subject matter of Senate Bill No. 1963; and, 4) Creation of a Special Team of Prosecutors from the Department of Justice that shall be assigned to assist the Task Force in the expeditious prosecution of criminal and other cases involving economic sabotage under this law.

Image credits: Senate PRIB