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NBI joins probe on smuggled rice

 

By JEFF DAMICOG

 

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will join investigations over the missing 23,015 sacks of smuggled rice recently seized in Zamboanga City.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has already given the directive to NBI Director Dante Gierran after an upset President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a probe upon learning of the disappearance of the smuggled rice.

“I have directed the NBI to assist the BoC (Bureau of Customs) and the NFA (National in the investigation of the missing 23,015 sacks of confiscated smuggled rice in Zamboanga City,” Guevarra told reporters.

The Secretary added he will let Gierran determine which NBI unit will be conducting the investigation.

“I will leave to NBI Director Gierran to determine if his agents down south could do a credible investigation, or the anti-smuggling task force at the head office should do it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BoC has already suspended Zamboanga District Collector Lyceo Martinez and Customs police district commander Filomeno Salazar.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque explained the two officials were suspended so they cannot “tamper with evidence and cannot influence the investigation.”

Based on a report from BoC Chief Isidro Lapeña, Roque said the BoC deployed a team to Zamboanga to investigate how the smuggled rice were taken from the government warehouse.

Around 18, 000 sacks of rice were already recovered, out of an estimated 23,000 sacks of rice, in warehouses in Tetuan, Suterville, and Kasanyagan in Zamboanga City.

It was believed that the rice from Malaysia were taken by an unidentified group before it went missing.

Roque admitted that the President was really angry at how the smuggled rice seized by authorities were lost at the government warehouse.

“It’s incredible. Obviously it cannot be done in a clandestine manner. Everyone must have seen how these sacks were taken,” he said.

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