Photo from Francis Tolentino FB Page.

Senator Francis Tolentino on Tuesday said the government is serious in fighting smuggling as he vowed to find ways to strengthen the judicial system that will prosecute smugglers in the country.

At the joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Food and Agriculture, Tolentino said that despite the enactment into law of Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, smugglers are still rampant in the country.

“Kahit naipasa na ang RA 10845, tuluy-tuloy pa din ang pagpasok ng (Even if we passed the RA 10845, smuggling still continue) smuggled products to the detriment of our local farmers,” he said.

One of the solutions, according to Tolentino, is to create special courts each in Bulacan, Manila, Cebu and Davao City, whose primary function is to prosecute smugglers, but a thorough study must be conducted since it is complicated and requires a huge budget.

The National Bureau of Investigations, on the other hand, proposed that the Regional Trial Courts must hear the smuggling cases instead of creating special courts.

Rosendo So, chairman of the Samahan ng Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), told the Senate hearing that smuggling continue from the previous administrations wherein the Manila Port ranked first, followed by Subic Port and Batangas City Port, as well as Davao City and Cebu.

Tolentino said that smuggling of agricultural products is conducted in layer operation, meaning smuggled products are hidden into layers and through “ukay-ukay”.

Meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar said she will support any amendments of anti-smuggling laws to ensure an effective fight against it.

She said hoarding, price manipulation and cartel will be included in the amendments as economic sabotage, which is a non-bailable offense. (PNA)