Thursday, September 6, 2012

Senate detains suspected rice smuggler

..The Senate has ordered the detention of two suspected rice smugglers for lying to senators who were probing allegations of rice smuggling at the Subic Bay Freeport. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself moved to cite Cesar Ramirez of the Federation of San Miguel Cooperatives and Robson Agri Ventures Corp, and Amira C. Foods International DMCC CEO Protek Guha in contempt over contradictory testimony they submitted in a joint committee investigation. Guha, an Indian national, cannot travel to the Philippines because of hypertension and vertigo. Ramirez had denied on record that he had e-mailed Guha about 420,000 sacks of rice from India later found in Subic. Ramirez later admitted in a supplemental submission that he did write to Guha. The Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms took custody of Ramirez on Wednesday. He is currently under guard but has not had visitors, OSAA said, adding it will be up to the Senate when Ramirez will be allowed to leave. "It is a penalty for lying to the Senate," Senator Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate agriculture committee, said in a text message. Asked how Ramirez could get his freedom back, Pangilinan said, "his lawyer should know what to do." Under Senate rules, a witness or resource person cited for contempt can be held "until he agrees to produce the required documents, or to be sworn or to testify, or otherwise purge himself of that contempt." Guha was meanwhile cited in contempt for saying the seized rice was not meant to be sold in the Philippines. Pangilinan, in a previous press statement, said "there is no question that the seized rice being investigated in the Senate is meant to be sold in the local markets." His counsel Demetri Custodio has said he will inform Guha of the order and will try to get his client to attend the next hearing, set for September 12. Aside from 420,000 sacks of rice from India that did not have proper documentation, the Senate is also investigating how 90 container vans of rice from Vietnam declared as construction materials were allowed into Subic. ..