Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Senate begins probe of smuggling

Two committees in the Senate will jointly probe the rampant smuggling of cars and food stuffs starting today.

The Senate committee on ways and means, chaired by Senator Francis Escudero and committee on finance, chaired by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, will look into the extent of smuggling and how it has eroded the government’s revenues.

The investigation is triggered by a resolution filed by Enrile who said tougher action should be taken against the unabated smuggling problem.

“We will touch on the smuggling of cars, shabu, steel products, ceramics, vegetables, fruits and other farm crops,” Enrile said. “In other words, all kinds of smuggling going on. We will find out why smuggling has not stopped in this country.”

Enrile, who served as commissioner of customs during the Marcos era, expressed the belief that big-time smuggling of illegal drugs could not happen in the country without the connivance or protection of well-placed public officials, as well as corrupt law enforcers.

A few weeks ago, 74 kilos of high-grade shabu valued at P4 billion was confiscated at the Subic Bay Freeport. The suspected mastermind behind the drug smuggling, a Taiwanese businessman, is still at large but there is speculation that he has been killed by his partners in a drug syndicate.

“These things could not happen without any strong political backing. There must be some influential people involved. If not political backing, then it must be some people in the law enforcement organization who are helping them. But when I say political backing, I am not referring to anyone, let alone anyone in the highest totempole of politics,” Enrile said.

Enrile said he based this on his experience as customs commissioner and finance undersecretary, when he stumbled on many smuggling cases involving members of the First Family, Cabinet members, senators and congressmen.

“I really directed my attention to these types of importers, not the small Angs or Chuas type of people. If you are a commissioner of customs, and you are able to catch the illegal importation of high government officials, then we will believe that you are really stopping smuggling. Otherwise, everything is a charade.”

Enrile said he would investigate even the alleged smuggling at the Port Irene and the Cagayan Special Economic Zone in his home province.

He said he feels this should be done because of reports going around that Port Irene is being used to smuggle rice from neighboring countries. However, he said he has not seen single grain of rice that has been imported through this port. By Fel V. Maragay - Manila Standard Today

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