Farmers' coops speak up on rice smuggling modus

Posted at 01/22/14 11:13 PM

Alleged smuggler David Lim mum on rice trading business

MANILA -- Businessman David Lim, one of the people accused of participating in big-time rice smuggling in the country, on Wednesday admitted that his company is involved in rice trading but declined to give details on their operations.

Lim was one of the people summoned to the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on Wednesday.

According to Senate agriculture committee chairperson Cynthia Villar, documents showed that David G. Lim is the president of DGL Commodities Inc. and an incorporator of DGL Trucks Inc.

Lim confirmed this. However, when asked regarding the rice trading operations of DGL Commodities Inc., he claimed that he is not familiar with the process, noting that it is his wife who handles the dealings regarding rice importation.

"I'm not denying that we have a rice company. But with regards to the dealings of this company, my wife is the one who knows. She is the one handling our commodities," he said.

He then told Villar that if needed, the Senate could also summon his wife to help shed light on the matter.

Villar did not easily accept Lim's answer, saying that as the company's president, it is his responsibility to know what's going on with his business.

However, Lim just said: "I trust her (wife) with the company so siya yung pinamahala ko sa company with regards sa commodity business."

Rice smuggling modus

Representatives of two farmers' cooperatives were also among those summoned to the Wednesday hearing to speak out on the alleged modus operandi of big-time rice smugglers.

According to Villar, legitimate farmers' groups are being used and funded by businessmen, through a broker, to obtain rice importation permits from the National Food Authority (NFA).

The groups are then given commission for every sack of rice they win during the NFA bidding.

Among the groups supposedly used as fronts were the Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Kapampangan at Katagalugan, and Sili Multi-purpose Cooperative.

Maximo Hernandez, representative of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Kapampangan at Katagalugan, lamented that after they were able to import 22,000 sacks of rice, they were not given incentives and a certificate of good standing by the Cooperatives Development Authority (CDA).

He said unknowingly, their cooperative has been blacklisted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) due to the ongoing investigation on their supposed involvement in rice smuggling operations in Albay.

Elpidio Mendoza, chairman of Sili Multi-purpose Cooperative, said they were also surprised when they found out that they were named as consignees of an illegal rice shipment that arrived at the Port of Legazpi, Albay.

Both Hernandez and Mendoza lamented that they were just trying to make a living for their families, and insisted that they were not involved in smuggling and illegal transactions.

David Lim's involvement

Villar said the person who acted as the broker for the Albay rice shipments was a certain Eleonor Rodriguez.

She said Rodriguez identified a certain Leah Echeveria as the one who funded the cooperatives to participate in the NFA private sector financed importation program.

Echeveria is a former employee of DGL Trucks Inc. from 2009 to September 2012.

She later worked for D-Uranium Enterprises, which is owned by Matilde Rubio Dinopol, who Villar said earlier worked for Nismo Trading in 2010.

The senator noted that the telephone number of Nismo Trading is the same phone number of DGL Commodities Inc.

In February 2013, Echeveria then transferred employment to D-Platinum Traders Enterprises, owned by Noreen Cabatbat Dingding, who earlier worked for DGL Trucks Inc. from 1999 to 2001 and for Nismo Trading from 2009 to 2011.

Villar said the phone number of D-Platinum Traders Enterprises was the same with the number of DGL Trucks Inc.

She pointed out that the "common denominator" in all of these companies is none other than David Lim.

Lim, however, just said that the businesses D-Uranium Enterprises and D-Platinum Traders Enterprises sounded "familiar."

Lim also said he does not know Dinopol, but admitted that Echeveria and Dingding were his former employees.