Chiz denies link to rice smuggling

Posted at 03/30/14 11:05 AM

MANILA - Sen. Francis Escudero denied yesterday he was in any way involved in rice smuggling as reported recently.

Escudero said he is not surprised by the reports since the same issue has been raised against him in the past.

“This has been around a long time already. I heard the stories some three to four years ago. Whenever there is an election or whenever the elections are approaching, these issues come out,” Escudero said in Filipino over radio dwIZ.

“The issues about the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), about my supposed drinking and being an alcoholic, being a (drug) addict, homosexual, smuggler, crook – all of these have been thrown at me ever since I went into politics,” he added.

Earlier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV was quoted as saying that a senator was mentioned as being involved with rice smuggling syndicates based on a “raw and unverified” report prepared by Bureau of Customs (BOC) deputy commissioner for intelligence Jesse Dellosa.

Trillanes did not identify the senator but said that he is friendly with a known smuggler.

Escudero said he did not want to comment on the unverified report, which would amount to nothing more than rumors. But since he was mentioned in some news reports already, he said he felt the need to clear up the issues raised against him.

Escudero admitted to being friends with former National Food Authority head Lito Banayo and even endorsed him to become head of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office at the start of President Aquino’s term.

Escudero said his association with Banayo is not something that should raise any eyebrows, considering that the latter is also close with several other politicians, including former senator Panfilo Lacson.

He also admitted to being in the same fraternity as BOC deputy commissioner Ariel Nepomuceno when they were still in college, but that was the extent of their connection to one another.

He said that instead of having details of the report leaking out in the media, it should just be released in full so that this could be scrutinized and whoever is mentioned there could confront whatever allegations are made against them.

“I can confront anyone who claims that I am involved here. This is all part of intrigue and a demolition job. What is important is for the truth to come out. I am not afraid of anything. I just hope that the people talking would only tell the truth whenever they open their mouths,” he added.