ROUGH CUTS| Shooting Duterte’s surging rating

NOW POLITICIANS who are aspiring either the Presidency or the Vice Presidency this coming 2016 elections who are suddenly unsettled with the surge of the popularity of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, have somehow found an ally in Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG).

     SINAG, the umbrella group of farmers and agri-business operators that have evolved into a Partylist Group in the House of Representatives, is questioning the credibility of the Davao City mayor as a stern leader who has turned his city into an economically progressive, safe and livable metropolis.

     Through its chair Rosendo So, SINAG would want the people in the country to believe that as a leader Duterte is not anymore the man that criminals and smugglers fear. He cited the rise of smuggling activities in the port of Davao even claiming that the city is now the smuggling hub.

     So claims that his group has seen indications that smuggled agricultural products such as onions, rice and pork have found their way to the Davao port. Of late, he said, the worst ever to have been smuggled into the country through the Davao port, is the so-called fake rice, allegedly coming from China.

     Whether or not So and his SINAG are unknowingly manipulated by some interested politicians in Manila we have no idea at this point in time. But we cannot help but suspect that some hands are behind SINAG and So because of the apparently “loaded” suggestion he made that Mayor Duterte be asked why smugglers are not deterred by his threats against them if they insist in running their trade in Davao City.

     With the discovery that fake rice has been smuggled into the country through the Davao port, So said, it now appears that Duterte’s threats are becoming ineffective. He even claimed that known alleged rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan has re-established his base in the city. This according to So, the mayor’s having told a Senate committee investigating the rice smuggling activities last year that the suspected rice smuggler would not be allowed to set foot in Davao City.

     No matter how people will see it the tirade of So and his SINAG on Duterte and his allegation that Davao is now the new smuggling haven, are clear attacks on the capability of the Davao City Mayor to make good his iron-fist approach at solving economic crimes like smuggling.

     In effect So is saying that if Duterte cannot deter smuggling in Davao City all the more that he can’t deter it on a nationwide scale.

     Well now, some presumptive presidentiables must be clapping their hands wildly. Someone and one apparently credible organization are shooting down the surging rating of the Davao City Mayor without them exposing any role.

     But wait, should the city mayor be included in So’s blame for having no arrests made of agricultural commodities smugglers?

     Whose responsibility is arresting smugglers, by the way? Isn’t it primarily the Bureau of Customs police’s that has jurisdiction over all ports of entries?

     We remember also that years back we have the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (EIIB) that runs after smugglers once they are able to sneak out of the Customs’ area of responsibility. This body is already defunct. Is there another unit that has taken over its functions? If none, is there already a clear delineation as to when the police comes in to arrest smugglers?

     Well, So and his group should not be so naïve to feign ignorance of the reasons why hardly any smuggler is arrested and prosecuted. They should not even have to complain why the Customs simply auction goods and commodities the Bureau considers as smuggled. Auctioning is big money – for the government, for the smugglers and for the corrupt men and women at the Bureau.

     Consider this: if the smuggled goods are auctioned off, the government earns more than what it collects in terms of duties and taxes. On the other hand, the smugglers could also be the bidders in the auction or that they may have created dummy companies to participate in the auction.

     Meanwhile, inside “connections” can be an effective bridge of scheming bidders to get favorable “arrangements” with the powers-that-be in the Bureau for them to win the auction even if their bids may not be to the advantage of the government.

     This time some people at the Bureau would be laughing their way to the banks.

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Posted in Opinion