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Judge who stopped raids on Mighty warehouses faces raps

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) yesterday filed administrative charges against a Manila judge who stopped its raids and inspections on warehouses of tobacco firm Mighty Corp., which is accused of tax evasion and smuggling.

In a 24-page complaint filed before the Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon accused Manila Regional Trial Court branch 1 Judge Tita Alisuag of gross ignorance of the law in issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the continuous raids of BOC and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) against Mighty Corp.

Faeldon also alleged that the judge committed gross violation of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for allegedly “exhibiting unquestionable bias and partiality in favor of Mighty Corp.”

He also accused the judge of blatantly disregarding the long-established rule that regular courts do not have jurisdiction over seizure and forfeiture proceedings.

Through the BOC legal service, Faeldon argued that the BOC has exclusive jurisdiction over all seizure and forfeiture cases under Section 202 of Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). 

Section 301 of the CMTA further provides that “all goods, including means of transport, entering or leaving customs territory, regardless of whether they are liable to duties and taxes, shall be subject to customs control.”

“The TRO was overbroad, practically prohibiting the BOC from exercising its mandate over Mighty Corp. It effectively made Mighty Corp. untouchable and immune from any and all acts of the BOC,” read the complaint.

“Respondent judge’s issuance of the said order dated March 6, 2017 constitutes ignorance of the law, so gross that it strikes at the very core of the public’s faith and confidence in the integrity and competence of the country’s judicial system,” it added.

The judge issued the TRO upon Mighty Corp.’s petition filed on March 3, which alleged that the BOC and BIR operatives discovered “there were no counterfeit, fake or smuggled goods” in the warehouses but still proceeded with the raid, the conduct of which was not in the scope of their mission order.

The trial court issued the TRO after the BOC and BIR seized over P2 billion worth of cigarettes of the firm bearing fake tax stamps in a series of raids.

The TRO is effective for 20 days from the filing of the case on March 3, or up to March 23.

The RTC is set to hear today the plea of Mighty Corp. for preliminary injunction. BOC legal service head Alvin Ebreo said they would seek the inhibition of Alisuag. 

Earlier this month, the BOC and the BIR confiscated 11,044 master cases of Mighty cigarettes worth P215 million in General Santos City and 62,200 master cases valued at P1.98 billion in San Simon, Pampanga.

Last week, BOC seized three more containers carrying Mighty cigarettes in the Port of Cebu and in Tacloban in an operation led by commissioner Faeldon himself. 

 

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