NBI to probe Zamboanga rice smuggling
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to join the ongoing probe on the missing smuggled rice in Zamboanga City.
“I have directed the NBI to assist the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the National Food Authority (NFA) in the investigation of the missing 23,015 sacks of confiscated smuggled rice in Zamboanga City,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement Sunday.
“I will leave it to the NBI Director Gierran to determine if his agents down south could do a credible investigation or the Anti-Smuggling Task Force at the head office should do it,” Guevarra said.
The NBI is one of the attached agencies of the DOJ.
The BOC has already started looking into the facts and incidents that led to the disappearance of the 23,013 sacks of alleged smuggled rice.
Last September 30, President Rodrigo Duterte was upset upon learning of the missing 23,015 sacks of rice that were intercepted from three vessels by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and turned over to the BOC — for inventory and issuance of a warrant of seizure and detention.
Last October 4, two Customs officials in Zamboanga City have been placed under “administrative relief” pending investigation of the missing sacks of smuggled rice.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said BOC Chief Isidro Lapeña has ordered the preventive suspension of Port of Zamboanga District Collector Lyceo Martinez and Customs police district commander Filomeno Salazar.
Roque said the two officials were suspended so that they could not “tamper with evidence and cannot influence the investigation.”
“I got a text from the Executive Secretary (Salvador Medialdea) asking me to inform the nation that President (Rodrigo Duterte) was visibly upset with the missing 23,015 sacks of apprehended smuggled rice in Zamboanga City,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
Roque said the incident showed that there was smuggling, that smuggled rice was being sold in the market, and that there were warehouses that were hoarding rice.
Officials of the BOC could be held liable for the missing sacks of smuggled rice.
To date, 16,000 sacks have been recovered from various privately-owned warehouses. (PNA)