De Lima slams CA ‘meddling’

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JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday called “regrettable” the ruling of the
Court of Appeals (CA) preventing her department from filing a P5-billion smuggling case against Dennis Ang Uy, Phoenix Petroleum president and chief executive officer, and customs broker Jorlan Cabanes.

De Lima said the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the CA that effectively blocked the filing of the case against Uy and Cabanes was “really regrettable.”

“I don’t know why they keep on interfering with the DOJ’s determination of probable cause. I don’t know why the Court of Appeals has developed the habit of enjoining the [DOJ] from prosecuting, from discharging its mandate.

De Lima said she has yet to see a copy of the TRO but she was informed by the National Prosecution Service (NPS), particularly by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, about the matter.

The DOJ on Tuesday stopped the filing of the smuggling case against Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc., saying the DOJ acted with “extraordinary swiftness” in deciding the case.

“An initial assessment on the instant case reveals the extraordinary swiftness of the DOJ in reversing itself and in rendering the challenged resolution thereby disregarding the petitioner’s right to a full-blown preliminary investigation,” Associate Justice Francisco Acosta said. The appellate court imposed a 60-day temporary restraining order on the case.

“It appears that the DOJ allowed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to introduce new matters in its motion for reconsideration and in its reply which were eventually considered and made basis for the issuance of the assailed resolution. Simply put, unless the implementation of the questioned resolution is restrained, the petitioner may stand trial for criminal charges which he had no chance to rebut,” the court added.

The DOJ had claimed that Uy and Cabanes had personal knowledge and direct participation in the operations of Phoenix, “including the processing and release of shipments that were already abandoned in favor of the government for failure to file import entries within 30 days from discharge of goods.”

De Lima cited the discrepancies in the documents submitted by Phoenix compared to the documents submitted by the BOC.

Jomar Canlas

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