Citizens can play a role in curbing agricultural smuggling by making “citizens’ arrests” against those selling smuggled vegetables and other agricultural products in the open market, applying the plain view doctrine, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson said Monday.
Lacson said this demand-reduction approach is part of the two-pronged strategy he suggested to stop the practice, which the Bureau of Customs and Department of Agriculture have not been able to address.
“Kung obvious na smuggled, huwag na tayo magturuan kasi may citizens arrest. Pwedeng kumpiskahin ng maski sino, humingi ng assistance from law enforcement (If you see that the vegetables are obviously smuggled, there’s such a thing as citizens arrest. Any citizen can seize the items and they can seek assistance from law enforcement to do so),” Lacson said at the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the issue.
“Even as a plain citizen you can conduct arrests and call for the assistance of the authorities, ang pwede mag-file ng kaso, etc. (Even as a plain citizen you can conduct arrests and call for the assistance of authorities who can file the needed charges),” he added.
He said this approach is similar to the one he adopted against illegal drugs and carnapping when he headed the Philippine National Police from 1999 to 2001. This helped bring down criminality including carnapping and illegal drugs.
Lacson said such demand reduction is half of the strategy, with the other half being supply reduction where authorities seize smuggled vegetables before they leave the Customs facilities.
Otherwise, he said the vegetables would reach vendors who could unwittingly sell them.
“Kung two-pronged strategy ia-apply natin palagay ko di mag proliferate ang smuggled vegetables (If we apply this two-pronged strategy, smuggled vegetables won’t proliferate),” he said.
Meanwhile, Lacson challenged the DA and Bureau of Customs to find ways to stop agricultural smuggling, which he said continues despite having supposedly stringent requirements for importers of agricultural products in getting accreditation and registration.
He cited information reaching him that some importers found engaged in wrongdoing are blacklisted merely changed their names and were accredited again.
“Ang hirap kunin ang requirements pero ang dali sa mga smugglers na lumusot (It is so hard for importers to comply with requirements, but it is so easy for smugglers to get past authorities),” he said.
In the meantime, he lamented that due to smuggling, “imagine how many kilos of carrots are given away for charity” because they cannot be sold, to the detriment of our local farmers.
“From BOC and DA, kindly convince us na walang milagrong nangyayari bakit may smuggled vegetables, meat and meat products. Kindly explain. Decades na, wala pa tayong solution. In the meantime our vegetable planters and hog raisers nagsa-suffer for decades and we allow that (From the BOC and DA, kindly convince us there is nothing fishy going on behind the continued smuggling of vegetables, meat and meat products. It’s been decades but we have no solution to this yet. In the meantime our vegetable planters and hog raisers suffer and we allow that),” he added.
Lacson vowed not to stop questioning until he and fellow senators are satisfied with the BOC and DA’s explanations. “Pag walang nangyayari, may kompromiso. Simple as that. So kindly look into that (If nothing is happening by way of a solution, there is a compromise. Simple as that. So kindly look into that),” he said.