NEWSFLASH

VEGGIE SMUGGLING NOT A HEINOUS CRIME -- SOLONS

Manila, Jan. 18, 2003 (Malaya) - Congress is not likely to pass a proposed measure imposing death penalty to smugglers of agriculture products.

Congressmen who deliberated on the measure in the committee level said the best deterrent against smuggling is the effective implementation of laws and regulations by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the PNP.

"We already have enough laws and regulations on anti-smuggling. It is a matter of effective implementation by the BOC and other law enforcers like the police," Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta, senior vice-chair of the ecology panel, said.

Acosta said the House need not pass another anti-smuggling measure as long as the existing laws on such criminal offense are implemented.

He said government should also improve its justice system and institutionalize reform to ease corruption in the bureaucracy.

"This prescription applies not only to the anti-smuggling drive of the government but to the over-all campaign against heinous crimes," Acosta, an anti-death penalty advocate, said.

He added: "The swiftness of the justice system and the proper enforcement of laws, not execution, would address heinous crimes in the country."

Panel member Rep. Oscar Moreno (Misamis Oriental) said the proposal to impose death penalty on agricultural smugglers only "dramatizes the need to address the problems in implementing anti-smuggling laws."

"The executive department should reform what needs to be reformed at the BOC which is at the forefront of curbing smuggling," Moreno said.

He said there are adequate anti-smuggling laws and regulations and it is only a matter of properly implementing these laws.

The House committee on civil, political and human rights is deliberating on the measure which would include the smuggling of farm produce as among those punishable by death penalty.

The proposed measure, authored by Reps. Joey Hizon (Manila) and Juan Miguel Zubiri (Bukidnon), was proposed by the Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture.

Secretary Isidro Camacho and Secretary Luis Lorenzo said smuggling of agricultural products has hurt the farming and fisheries sector.


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