BY MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO REPORTER
The Department of Finance (DOF) on Tuesday questioned the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Court of Appeals that blocked the smuggling case against the head of Phoenix Petroleum Philippines.
Earlier, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the filing of charges for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) against Dennis Ang Uy, Phoenix president and chief executive officer, and customs broker Jorlan Cabanes.
“TROs like this one effectively prevent the government from prosecuting smuggling. Our courts and court processes should not be used by a few to block our progress in enforcing customs laws, and creating a level playing field for all,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a statement.
According to the DOF, the petition for certiorari with application for TRO of Phoenix customs broker Cabanes was filed before the appellate court, and assigned to its 10th division composed of Justices Romeo Barza, Francisco Acosta and Angelita Gacutan.
On May 9, 2013, the appellate court issued a TRO for a period of 60 days, enjoining the enforcement of the DOJ’s resolution finding probable cause to charge Phoenix and Cabanes with smuggling.
Further, a hearing is set on June 27, 2013, for the application of Cabanes for a writ of preliminary injunction.
The department added that Cabanes obtained the TRO to prevent the justice department from filing the information in the smuggling case against himself and Phoenix.
Cabanes alleged that he was denied due process because the reply filed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) before the DOJ introduced new allegations against him and Phoenix.
This, according to Cabanes, led the DOJ to reverse its previous resolution and resolve instead to charge him and Phoenix with oil smuggling.
However, the finance department noted that the reply filed by the BOC only restated previous allegations.
In its resolution, it was the BOC, not the DOJ, that was directed by the appellate court to comment on the petition, the DOF said.
It further noted that the appellate court’s directive to the BOC appeared to be highly unusual because the DOJ, the agency whose action Cabanes is questioning, was not directed to comment.
“This unnecessarily slows down the process but nevertheless, we will not allow anyone to distract us from our continuing drive against smuggling,” Purisima said.
“We look forward to working with the leadership of the judiciary to prevent the manipulation of legal processes which effectively frustrate our quest for justice,” he added.
Prosecution on hold
A resolution of the CA 10th Division, dated and promulgated May 9, 2013, penned by Associate Justice Francisco Acosta, has stopped the indictment of Phoenix trader Jorlan Capiin Cabanes.
Other Magistrates who concurred in the ruling are Justices Angelita Gacutan and Romeo Barza.
The order effective for 60 days stops the prosecution against Phoenix officials. However, a CA insider said that the TRO covers only Cabanes and not the officials of Phoenix since the Justices do not have jurisdiction over the other respondents including Phoenix Petroleum President Dennis Ang Uy.
Smuggling charges were ordered filed against Uy and Cabanes for unlawful and fraudulent importation of gasoil, unleaded gasoline, and petroleum products at Port of Davao and Sub-Port of Bauan, Batangas.
The DOJ, through Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, found probable cause to file charges against Uy and Cabanes after they were tagged in the illegal importation of petroleum products that supposedly occurred between June 2010 and April 2011.
In the order, the department opined that Uy and Cabanes had “personal knowledge and direct participation in the operations of Phoenix Petroleum, including the processing and release of shipments that were already abandoned in favor of the government.”
On January 14, 2012 and on November 16, 2012, the DOJ ruled in favor of Phoenix after the agency dismissed the smuggling complaint filed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The customs bureau, however, filed a motion for reconsideration that prompted the agency to reverse its decisions.
The DOJ held that they should be charged for the offense as the “acts could not have been perpetrated without connivance of BOC officials and employees.”
However, the camp of Uy believes that he is covered by the TRO as pointed out by Atty. Raymond Zorilla, Phoenix Petroleum Vice President for External Affairs and Business Development.
WITH A REPORT FROM JOMAR CANLAS