House OKs bill amending agri-smugglers to get life imprisonment

THE House of Representatives has unanimously approved on third and final reading a measure that seeks to give more bite to the existing Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, or Republic Act (RA) No. 10845 by dangling the penalty of life imprisonment to agri-smugglers. 

House Bill (HB) No. 9284, also known as the Anti Agri-Fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act, garnered 289 “yes” votes during nominal voting at past midnight Wednesday. 

The smuggling of rice and other agricultural products is classified as “economic sabotage” under the measure–a crime punishable by life imprisonment. 

“Malapit nang matapos ang mga maliligayang araw ng mga smugglers, hoarders, at ang mga nagca-cartel. Your days are numbered. Once this bill is enacted, we will use its provisions to the fullest in order to prosecute these evil-doers who made our kababayans suffer,” Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said. 

Speaking to its importance, the advancement HB No. 9284 took place alongside the plenary debates on the P5.768-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) or proposed national budget for 2024. 

The measure’s full title reads, “An Act declaring large-scale agri-fisheries commodities and tobacco smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, cartelizing, and other Acts of market abuse as economic sabotage, Amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 10845, otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.” 

Romualdez, leader of the 311-strong House of Representatives and the fourth highest-ranked official in the land, earlier said that he hopes the measure would have a chilling effect on the individuals in the agriculture sector that take advantage of hapless consumers. 

“This bill will help realize President Marcos’ aspirations of affordable produce and food self-sufficiency. It’s unanimous passage speaks volumes,” said Romualdez, adding that the House remains committed to supporting Marcos’ initiatives as the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary. 

The House Committee on Agriculture and Food headed by Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga, endorsed for plenary approval the proposed agricultural economic sabotage law. 

Last week, Speaker Romualdez assured that the measure, part of the 20 bills listed by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for passage this December, will be approved on third and final reading before Congress goes on recess on September 30

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