THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) has belied accusations that ACT-CIS Party-list representative Eric Go Yap has intervened before Customs officials in relation to the release of any shipment or that the lawmaker is engaged in smuggling activities.
“Never, not once, not even a telephone call,” said BOC spokesman and assistant Commissioner Atty. Vincent Maronilla.
Maronilla made the clarification on the sideline of another round of Senate investigation involving the smuggling of agricultural products based on the complaints of farmers from Benguet and nearby areas.
“The only time we get to briefly meet Cong. Yap was during budget deliberation, as he is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee,” Maronilla added.
The hearing, going on for two weeks now, is a continuation of the previous hearings conducted by the Senate Committee of the Whole, based on a privilege speech delivered by Senate President Vicente Sotto III back in December 2021.
Yap, who is seeking a seat in Congress as representative of Benguet, has complained that his name is being dragged into the issue by his political opponents ahead of the May 9, 2022 polls.
Yap has been appointed as the caretaker representative of Benguet since January 2020, after the demise of Rep. Nestor Fongwan Sr., a month before.
Yap, who won a seat under the ACT-CIS Party-list in 2019, is the first neophyte congressman and party-list representative to chair the House Committee on Appropriations, the equivalent of the Finance Committee in the Senate.
He is also the principal author in Congress of RA 11463 otherwise known as the “Malasakit Center Law”, the “one-stop-shop” for government health and medical assistance.
Congressional records show that as far back as November 4, 2021, Yap already implored the House Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga, to conduct a congressional probe on the problem of agricultural smuggling on behalf of Benguet vegetable growers.
“In light of the discovery of possible misdeclared, misclassified, and undervalued imported vegetables in various ports and warehouses, this is to appeal to the committee to exercise its oversight function to conduct a full-blown on the alleged illegally imported fresh vegetables in the country,” Yap told Enverga.
“Our farmers, specifically those in our province of Benguet, have yet to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The unrestricted entry of these vegetables from abroad is tantamount to economic sabotage, particularly to their livelihood,” Yap added.
His appeal for Congress to probe agricultural smuggling predated by one month the start of the Senate’s investigation on the issue that started on December 14, 2021.
Yap also appealed to some members of the Senate not to inject politics into its investigation, particularly Sen. Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan, who is the running mate of Vice President Leni Robredo.
During the Senate hearing last March 28, 2022, it was Pangilinan, the Liberal Party (LP) president, who repeatedly inserted the name of Yap in the discussion based on an old news report dating back to 2017.
Yap not only publicly endorsed the candidacy for president of the former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” (BBM) Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, but is also actively campaigning for their ticket.
“We really cannot solve the problem of smuggling if there are candidates this May who like to inject ‘malice’ in the discussion in support of their political ambition,” Yap pointed out.