Who’s backing him?
Perhaps David Tan aka Davidson Bangayan is taking his cue from the senators themselves, specifically Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. In a privilege speech delivered six months after he was implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla defended himself in part by insisting again that his signatures on the voluminous paperwork linking him to the anomaly were all forged—despite a much earlier letter he had written to the Commission on Audit confirming that the signatures were his.
The COA asked Revilla in 2011 to validate documents that requested disbursements of his pork barrel allocation to certain nongovernment organizations that eventually turned out to be among the bogus groups put up by Janet Lim Napoles to launder the money. Revilla’s response to the COA? “After going through these documents and initial examination, it appears that the signatures and/or my initials on these documents are my signatures or that of my authorized representatives.”
As clear as day. Yet there Revilla was on the Senate floor, repeating without flinching the lie that the telltale signatures on the documents weren’t his. Such hubris can be a source of inspiration to like-minded individuals—as it appears to have been in the case of Tan aka Bangayan, whose testimony at the Senate floor last Wednesday over the rampant rice smuggling of which he is being accused was as straight-faced a performance as Revilla’s.
The question of the real identity of the mysterious David Tan who’s said to be behind the biggest rice cartel in the country has flummoxed nearly everyone in and out of government. The National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice both maintain that there is, at the very least, a real David Tan and they’ve actually managed to identify him.
The Bureau of Customs, on the other hand, along with personages like Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and lawyer Argee Guevara, who has initiated plunder charges against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for alleged collusion in rice smuggling, maintains the opposite: that the David Tan being floated about as the ringleader of a vast criminal syndicate is a fictitious being, created as a straw man to draw investigators away from the truth.
Davidson Bangayan appeared at the Senate last Wednesday, and stoutly denied being David Tan. He admitted, among other things, that he did engage in the rice business, by way of a partner named Willy Sy who traded rice and other commodities. Sy was identified by witnesses in a 2012 Senate inquiry as their “broker” in rice importation, and that he was an employee of a scrap metal trading company called Okinoshima Recycling Inc.—a company that Bangayan admitted was his.
If that appears to be more guilt by association than anything, a damning document identifies Bangayan and Tan as one and the same. Jesus Arranza, chair and president of the Federation of Philippine Industries, revealed that he had been sued for libel by Bangayan at one point. The libel case was dismissed, but the documents of the case are quite definitive.
In the four-page complaint-affidavit Bangayan drew up against Arranza, Bangayan said he is among the stockholders of Advanced Scrap Specialist Corp. He attached a separate document by Justin Chan, managing director of Taylor Overseas Marketing, which said: “This is to certify that Advanced Specialist Corp. headed by Davidson Bangayan a.k.a. David Tan has been supplying our company of scrap metals for the last two years.”
At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile also pointed out that in an arbitration case filed in Singapore over a scrap-metal deal, Bangayan was likewise impleaded as David Bangayan aka David Tan.
When confronted with incontrovertible proof like that, most people caught in a fib or a lie would admit the untruth. Not so Bangayan, who continued to insist throughout his Senate testimony that he is not what numerous documents and witnesses say he is: the David Tan known in Customs as the Goliath of the rice smuggling industry, as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima put it.
Bangayan’s audacity to lie through his teeth in public must only come from one place: the sense that he will come out of this controversy unscathed, that he has the backing and protection of powerful people in government. He couldn’t have become what he is without such shadowy sponsorship. The crucial question is no longer who David Tan is, but who he’s been working for all this time.
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