Davao judge told to explain release of rice shipment

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

DAVAO City Judge Emmanuel Carpio was ordered by the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday to comment on the government’s petition questioning his decision to release the questionable rice imports of businessman Joseph Ngo.

Carpio and Ngo have 10 days to comment on the petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General (OSG), counsel for Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla.

The SC also issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the preliminary injunction released by Carpio in favor of Ngo in December 12 last year.

"For purposes only of granting the TRO, the Court considered as meritorious the OSG's arguments regarding lack of adequate representation of the BOC during the RTC hearings and the lack of legal standing of Ngo to sue," SC spokesperson Theodore Te said in a press briefing.

The TRO however came too late as Sevilla ordered the release of 167 containers of rice worth P21.1 million as early as January 6 in deference to judge's order.

Agri-industry alliance Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) estimates that the container vans, which came from either Thailand or Singapore, amounts to 83,500 cavans or almost 4.2 million kilos of rice.

The vans are part of the almost 2,000 containers seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) since September 2013 for lack of import permit.

But Carpio, presiding judge of Davao Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 16, issued an injunction in support of Ngo's argument that the quantitative restrictions such as an import permit can no longer be imposed in light of the expiration of the Special Treatment for Rice Importation on June 30, 2012.

The Philippines is currently negotiating with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the import restrictions until 2017.

Carpio is also facing an administrative complaint before the SC for ordering the release of the rice, which Ngo imported on behalf of Starcraft International Trading Corporation.

Starcraft is allegedly owned by suspected smuggling king Davidson Bangayan (aka David Tan). Bangayan's lawyer, Benito Salazar, is the legal counsel of Starcraft. (Sunnex)

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