Brokers filed graft charges against three government officials, including criminal and administrative cases, for violation of Republic Act 9280, or the Customs Brokers Act of 2004 and Section 3 of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The complainants, who last Friday trooped to the Office of the Ombudsman, also sought the immediate preventive suspension of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner John Sevilla during pendency of an administrative probe to prevent the accused from using their positions or powers and prerogatives of their offices to influence potential witnesses or tamper with records that may be vital in the prosecution of the charges against them.
They want also the three officials to be removed from their posts.
The 16 complainants are leaders of five organizations of brokers, namely Nilo Casas, Reynaldo Soliman, Henry Villa, Felix Pica, Julito Ismael, Saturnino Galing, Ariel Nabagat and Ireneo Riberal of Professional Customs Brokers Association of the Philippines Inc.; Armando Chan, Patrio Guasa and Baltazar Ramirez of Aduana Business Club Inc.; Glenn Kaindoy of Customs Brokers Association; Benjamin Valic and Bernardo Feliciano of Association of Aduana Brokers of the Philippines Inc.; and Myrna Rebao and Benedicto Manuel of Customs Brokers Council of the Philippines.
The brokers are assailing the memoranda respectively issued by Purisima, Henares and Sevilla that, according to the complainants, the respondents “bar, block, stop, impede and hinder them from exercising their professions and from transacting with the Bureau of Customs notwithstanding their faithful compliance with the requirement of RA 9280.”
They said the memoranda of the three government officials violated the powers exclusively vested upon the Professional Regulatory Board for Customs Brokers (PRBCB).
Henares, in a directive dated February 10, 2014 (Memorandum Order 10-2014), told brokers and importers to secure an accreditation from the BIR under the guidleines, policies and procedures. Each accreditation is pegged at P2,000.
This was followed by a memorandum coming from Purisima, dated May 14, 2014 (Department Order 33-2014), which requires all brokers and importers to follow the directives coming from the BIR and Bureau of Customs.
Then on May 22, 2014, Sevilla issued Commission Memorandum 11-2014 directing brokers to subject themselves to profiling, also known as BOC-Client Profile Registration System, which costs P1,000.
The profiling includes information on BIR certificate of registration, latest annual income tax returns, latest mayor’s business permit, proof of ownership of the business address, latest utility bills and even copies of official receipts.
The brokers said RA 9280 had expressly repealed sections 3401 to 3409 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines in order to ensure that PRBCB alone could exercise the power and functions vested upon it and avoid overlapping of functions among various government agencies.
They added that brokers can transact business once they have passed the written examination that entitles them to Customs broker’s certificate and license.
The brokers cited the March 2013 ruling of a Manila court that nuliffied various memorandums of BoC and Finance department requiring the brokers to secure accreditation from the Customs bureau.
Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 49, in its March 20, 2013 ruling, said in its dispositive portion of the decision that the memorandums, all issued in year 2006, were inconsistent with RA 9280 and therefore null and void.
The court ruled that there is no need for Customs brokers to secure accreditation from BOC as certificates and licenses issued by the Professional Regulation Commission are enough requirements to allow brokers to transact business with the Customs bureau.