Duterte on David Tan: ‘I will gladly kill him’

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Monday, February 3, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that he is willing to spend the remaining days of his life in jail if alleged rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan brings in smuggled goods into his city.

"I will gladly kill him. I could go to prison for it. I'm old, your honor. I could spend the remaining days of my life (there). Matanda na rin ako. Marami na rin akong sakit. The most is about five to 10 years. I can do away with the stress by reading books," said Duterte, referring to Bangayan, who is being tagged by the intelligence community as David Tan, the alleged king of rice smugglers in the country.

Duterte was invited at the resumption of the Senate committee on agriculture and food probe into rice smuggling following his previous statement that 26 Davao-based cooperatives are reportedly cornering supplies of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA).

Before the start of the Senate inquiry, Duterte and Bangayan almost bumped into each other at the cafeteria. Duterte was talking with some people when Bangayan and his entourage entered the cafeteria.

Bangayan was all smiles as he passed by the group of Duterte. Duterte, meanwhile, glanced at the grinning Bangayan and blurted, "Di ba mao man tong tonto?"

At the Senate hearing, Duterte said he will make sure Bangayan lands in jail.

"Of course, iintayin ko siya sa labas. Kapag lumaban ito, and he puts up a good fight, I will not hesitate. I'm not trying to be a hero. I will gladly kill smugglers. I am old, I can spend the rest of my life in prison," he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, however, found Duterte's statements "very disturbing."

"I just find it disturbing that there are statements from the mayor that that he would not hesitate to kill. That is very disturbing. You cannot just do that. The rule of law must prevail," De Lima said.

Senate panel chairperson Cynthia Villar said Duterte's threat should serve as a stern warning against smugglers.

"For me, parang stern warning lang yun kasi minsan dapat ang warning mo medyo stern although hindi mo naman gagawin pero talagang sinasabi niya he will do everything to penalize him if he does it in Davao. Sanay na kami kay Mayor Duterte," Villar said.

Duterte said he would not want the people of Davao to suspect that the local government is in connivance with big-time smugglers.

"Huwag niyong gagawin yan dito ever again. Ang tao kasi hindi nila alam na ang local government walang power over national agencies. You're always a suspect. Baka isipin nila may nilalakad na shipment," he said.

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
Davidson Bangayan
Businessman Davidson Bangayan

The mayor told the committee that it was Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares who sought his help to address the problem of rice smuggling in the ports of Davao.

Duterte said he then met with several government agencies who reported to him that Tan is behind the rampant rice smuggling in the country.

The intelligence community, he said, showed him a photo of Tan. He told the committee that Bangayan and Tan is one and the same person.

"You and I know the terrible effect that rice smuggling brings. It robs the government of precious income and impoverishes the Filipino economy. It is economic sabotage, at worst. More than that, rice smuggling erodes the people's trust and faith in government, particularly in its capacity to enforce the laws," Duterte said.

"The trouble with us in government is that we talk too much, act too slow and do too little. Don't we?" he added.

Quizzed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada on which branch of government he was referring to, the mayor said he was referring to the Bureau of Customs, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ). All three agencies, he said, failed to address the issue of smuggling.

"Pag gusto nila mabagal ang laro, mabagal talaga. It's the question of money. Kung gusto nilang bilisan, money again. It's the reality," he said.

But De Lima defended the authorities, saying the NBI is taking its time to ensure that it will be able to file an airtight case against Bangayan or any rice smuggler for that matter.

"Unfair po yun na sabihin na dada lang kami ng dada sa gobyerno. May resulta po palagi ang ginagawa namin. You be the judge. Kung nababagalan, well, several ang reasons niyan kung bakit mabagal. Maingat din dapat tayo. Sinisiguro yan ng NBI na airtight yung kaso," she said.

She also said after Duterte's positive identification of Bangayan as David Tan that the DOJ will no longer let Bangayan escape.

She said they will serve the warrant of arrest against Bangayan after the Senate proceedings.

Bangayan cited for contempt

The Senate also cited Bangayan for contempt for denying that he is David Tan. But Senate Committee on Agriculture Cynthia Villar decided not to arrest Bangayan as the NBI is already arresting him. [Read more about Bangayan's arrest.]

Bangayan is also placed under the NBI and DOJ’s watchlist for possible flight.

In his testimony before the Senate, Duterte said that smuggling has been going on all over the country unabated for years. He said some do outright smuggling while others use recycled permits, others undervalue their products while others misdeclare them.

He said Bangayan is the main financier of all rice imports in the country, thus it was known to the rice industry players that Davidson Bangayan is the same David Tan that's being accused of paying off billions to corrupt government officials for their rice smuggling activity.

"David Tan's face is all over the town. Everybody knows him. Sya yung pagador talaga. Siya yung may hawak sa rice importation. He plays a central role here. All other are minor players, David Tan is the central player. He is the only one who has established to influence rice smuggling in the country," Duterte said.

What is sad, Duterte said, is that most cooperatives who are allowed by law to import rice go to Bangayan since he has the finances to bankroll the rice importation.

Thus, Duterte suggested, it is best that the authority to import rice would only be given to the NFA so as to stop rice smuggling in the country.

‘Mayor lang po ako’

Also during the Senate inquiry, Senator Cynthia Villar mistakenly called the Davao City mayor as “Senator Duterte,” prompting a response from Duterte, saying: "Mayor lang ho ako, Ma'am."

Aside from his hard-hit testimonies on Monday, Duterte's presence alone was already a statement.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the members of the Committee on Agriculture, started his interview on Duterte by addressing him as "Sa aking iniidolo."

Monday's Senate inquiry was well attended by the media and the senators. Among those who threw questions at Mayor Duterte were Senators Cynthia Villar, Juan Ponce Enrile, JV Ejercito, Grace Poe, Bam Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, Sonny Angara, and Ralph Recto. (With ANC of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

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