By Jeffrey Damicog
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved the filing of charges against suspected rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan and five others over their alleged involvement in using dummies for their rice importations with the aim of increasing the prices of rice.
In a 14-page review resolution, the DOJ said it found probable cause to indict Bangayan and his five co-respondents of monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade under Article 186, paragraph 3 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
The DOJ noted the case relates to the anomalous transactions allegedly entered into by the respondents through the employment of farmers’ organizations as their dummies in the bidding of importations conducted by the National Food Authority (NFA).
“For that reason, the above-named respondents, who were engaged in the importation of rice, with the intention of manipulating and increasing the market price of the rice supply and for the purpose of making transactions prejudicial to lawful commerce, by combining, conspiring, and employing the farmers’ cooperatives to participate in the bidding of importation of such commodity, should be held liable under Article 186, paragraph 3, of the RPC which is further aggravated by the fact that the subject imported article is a prime necessity,” read the resolution dated Nov. 5 and signed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Miguel Gudio Jr.
Bangayan’s five co-respondents are Elizabeth Faustino; spouses David Lim and Judilynne Lim; Eleanor Rodriguez; and Leah Echeveria.
“In addition, there is evidence in the present case to support the indictment of respondent Bangayan for violation of C.A. (Commonwealth Act) No. 142 (An Act to Regulate the Use of Aliases), as amended by R.A. No. 6085, for the unauthorized use of the alias ‘David Tan’,” added the resolution.
The DOJ pointed out his denial that he is not “David Tan” which he allegedly used in his transactions “cannot overcome the positive and credible evidence submitted by the NBI-AGD (National Bureau of Investigation-Anti-Graft Division) comprising, among others, of the affidavits of witnesses and public records showing that he is indeed using, in addition to his true name, the alias ‘David Tan’.”
The NBI-AGD, which filed the complaint before the DOJ, showed that Bangayan and Faustino are involved in the transactions concerning the multi-purpose cooperatives Riverview, Umasaka, SitioMuzon, Sta. Cecilia, Formosa, and GPI San Miguel.
The DOJ noted that testimonies of witnesses Augusto Hernandez and LambertoIngal showed “their (Bangayan and Faustino) respective participations in proving their conspiracy in the anomalous transactions to manipulate the rice importations into the country, and these are material pieces of evidence to support the criminal charge for combination in restrains of trade.”
“It is well to note that two witnesses specifically pointed out the participation of respondent Bangayan as the financer of some of the cooperatives and that it was respondent Faustino who acted as his broker and the one who facilitated the documentary and financial requirements so that the concerned entities may be allowed to participate in the bidding for rice procurement,” the DOJ said.
On the other hand, the Lims, Rodriguez and Echeveria, all of DGL Commodities, were involved in the multi-purpose cooperatives KapatirangTakusa, UgnayangMagbubukidng San Isidro, Inc., Samahan ng Magsasakang Kapampangan at Katagalugan, and Samahan n gMagsasaka sa Kalawitan.
The NBI-AGD presented as evidence against the four the joint affidavits of Samahan ng Magsasakang Kapampangan at Katalugan chairman Maximo Hernandez, Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Kalawitan chairman RemegioManalastas, and Emily Alabado.
“These witnesses pointed out the participation of respondent Rodriguez as broker and facilitator of the import requirements, respondent Echeveria as co-signatory of the bank accounts that were opened for spouses as owners of DGL Commodities and financers of the cooperatives, thus evidencing that they conspired and confederated with one another to enter into lawful transactions,” the DOJ said.
“Moreover, respondents Lim spouses, Rodriguez, and Echevaria, in their respective affidavits, even admitted that they supported and financed the farmers’ cooperatives in the rice importations,” it added.
The NBI-AGD also submitted as evidence before the DOJ the affidavits of concerned NFA officials and the Feb. 6, 2013 Senate Committee Report conducted over the rice smuggling issue and recommended the investigation of the respondents.