Department of Justice

Remulla asks BOC, DA why are there cartels smuggling agri products

Iya Gozum

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Remulla asks BOC, DA why are there cartels smuggling agri products

ONIONS. A market vendor arranges large size onions imported from China which sells at P350/kilo at Libertad Market in Pasay City on January 17, 2023.


(1st UPDATE) The DOJ is investigating links among officials from the Bureau of Customs, the Department of Agriculture, and the cartels allegedly manipulating prices of agricultural products

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) will have to explain the existence of cartels which are allegedly responsible for the unabated smuggling of agricultural products, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said on Thursday, July 27.

“The smuggling is unabated and we will have to ask the Bureau of Customs to explain to us how this is happening. Kasi hindi pwedeng mangyari to nang ’di alam ng Customs,” said Remulla in an interview with The Source. (It’s impossible that this is happening without the knowledge of Customs.)

“And of course ‘yung counterpart niya sa Department of Agriculture, ‘yan din ang isang may problema tayo tungkol sa importation permits.” (And of course, its counterpart in the Department of Agriculture has a problem with importation permits.) 

The cartels have been micromanaging the industry, mastering control of the supply and cold storage facilities, said Remulla. Asked if those given import permits were also the smugglers and hoarders, Remulla said it looked like there was one concerted effort conducting “an organized way of dealing with the industry.”

So far, the BOC has been cooperative, said Remulla, and the DOJ was expecting that it would continue to do so in the next 60 days of the investigation.

The anti-smuggling task force will start their fact-finding investigation next week. According to Remulla, they were looking into 20 possible onion smugglers and four major players. 

The justice secretary said they were still verifying details about the modus operandi and checking the schedule of activities of suspected parties.

“We are looking at every step of the importation and distribution process so we can really put a stop into this,” said Remulla in a mix of Filipino and English.

On July 25, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. tapped the Department of Justice to establish a task force that would investigate agricultural smugglers and cartels. 

This comes more than two weeks after Marcos ordered the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation to probe into the alleged hoarding, smuggling, and price fixing of agricultural commodities. 

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Resignation of involved officials

In a press briefing on Thursday, Senator Imee Marcos said that if courtesy resignations could happen inside the Philippine National Police, this could also happen with officials in the BOC and DA involved in the smuggling of agricultural products. (READ: Marcos accepts resignation of 3 police generals, 15 colonels over alleged drug links)

Senator Marcos is one of the vice chairpersons of the Senate committee on agriculture, food, and agrarian reform. 

Erring officials should be placed under preventive suspension, said Senator Marcos. “Kung may tinatawag nga na prima facie evidence o ‘di kaya intel na mabigat-bigat eh talagang kinakailangan na talagang tanggalin mo na sa pwesto kung hindi tuloy-tuloy naman ang ligaya.”

(If there is prima facie evidence or compelling intel, these officials should be sacked or else they will carry on with what they’re doing.)

Remulla asks BOC, DA why are there cartels smuggling agri products

Prices of onions skyrocketed last year, spurring Congress to conduct separate investigations in both chambers. Some two months after the hearings in the House of Representatives concluded, Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo sent the President a memorandum stating the “substantial evidence” uncovering the existence of a cartel. Marcos then ordered the probe into smuggling, cartels. – 

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.