By JOENALD MEDINA RAYOS
“TANGGALIN, i-black list at if you are really guilty of doing a cartel, then since that is punishable by law, then you have to pay the penalties as punishment for civil liability and face also the criminal liability to be filed by the DOJ.”
This is how Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, wants the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) should act on the continuing cartel of garlic in the country today.
“Nag-issue sila ng report noong end of 2014 at sinabi nila na, there is really a cartel at nagsabi sila ng mga names doon, and then tinitingnan namin ang listahan ngayon ng mga nag-iimport pa rin, kasama pa rin yung mga nag-cartel noon, kaya iyon ang ipinU-point out namin na kailangang balikan nila. Bakit gayong naireport na nilang ganun, supposed to be nag-file na sila ng cases against them, pero bakit naroon pa rin yun,” the senator lamented.
“Kaya by Monday, susulat ako dun sa Philippine Competition Commission na supposed to be dapat sila ang nag-iinvestigate in addition to DOJ. Ang DOJ kasi may office of competition, then we have PCC, so both of them are investigating, kaya susulat kami sa kanila to question that na nagreport sila na meron talaga, na sinabi nila kung sino ang mga pangalan, tapos ngayon pag tiningnan mo yung listahan ng mga nag-iimport ay naandun pa rin. We must stop this,” she added.
Villar who visits here for the Induction ceremony of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) said the real reform in the agriculture industry must make an assurance that the Filipino farmers are benefitting from the reform.
“But how could we say that the agri industry is developing if our farmers will be left behind,” she pointed out.
The assailed the 2014 DOJ study had found, Balikas learned, that a collusion between DA officials and garlic industry traders, not a stock shortage, had caused staggering increases in garlic prices that year.
The said report revealed that garlic imports were controlled mainly by at least four individuals who created a web of dummy entities accredited by the Bureau of Plant Industry.
It can be recalled that in June 2014, retail prices of garlic in the local market has soared to as high as P300 to P400 a kilo from the usual P60 to P90 per kilo. This caused the investigation on the reports of garlic smuggling during that year.
Last May 2017, the price of garlic in the market has jumped again to as high as P200 to P250 per kilo, from the usual prevailing price of P70 to P90.
“But how can we say that there is no cartel when the current local production of garlic amounts to about 8,000 metric tons annually only? Our farmers are producing only about 65 of the total market demand,” the lawmaker said.
The DA targeted a supply of 130,000 metric tons of garlic to meet the yearly demand, but because of low local production, the country has been dependent on the importation of the basic commodity.
Cartel is a form of illegal price manipulation as enumerated in Section 5, subparagraph 3 of the Republic Act No. 7581 or An Act Providing Protection to Consumers by Stabilizing the Prices of Basic Necessities and Prime Commodities and by Prescribing Measures Against Undue Price Increases During Emergency Situations and Like Occasions.
Under Section 15 of the same law, provides that any person who commits any act of illegal price manipulation of any basic necessity or prime commodity under Sec. 5 hereof shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than five (5) years nor more than Fifteen (15) years, and shall be imposed a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (P5,000) nor more than Two million pesos (P2,000,000).
Meanwhile, PCC Commissioner Stella Quimbo said the agency could investigate the case right away upon receiving the senator’s request. She said the DOJ’s study on garlic cartels would not go to waste.
“Meron tayong ginagamit na rules and procedure. Kailangan natin sundan. Hindi masasayang ang 2014 report. Kapag binuksan ang report, masasama yan,” she said in a forum in Quezon City.
PCC however explained that while initial investigation will take 90 days, it assured the public that the commission will act on the senaotr’s concern. Since garlic is considered as a basic commodity, violators will be fined thrice the usual P100-million penalty.|#BALIKAS_News