Yaokasin vs. Commissioner of Customs (Full)

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EN BANC G.R. No. 84111 December 22, 1989 JIMMY O. YAOKASIN, Petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS, SALVADOR M. MISON and the DISTRICT COLLECTOR OF THE PORT OF TACLOBAN, VICENTE D. YUTANGCO, Respondents. GRIÑO-AQUINO, J.: This petition questions the power of automatic review of the Commissioner of Customs over the decision of the Collector of Customs in protest and seizure cases. On May 27, 1988, the Philippine Coast Guard seized 9000 bags/ sacks of refined sugar, which were being unlo
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  EN BANC G.R. No. 84111 December 22, 1989 JIMMY O. YAOKASIN, Petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS, SALVADOR M. MISON and the DISTRICT COLLECTOR OF THE PORT OF TACLOBAN, VICENTE D. YUTANGCO, Respondents. GRIÑO-AQUINO, J.: This petition questions the power of automatic review of the Commissioner of Customs over the decision of the Collector of Customs in protest and seizure cases. On May 27, 1988, the Philippine Coast Guard seized 9000 bags/ sacks of refined sugar, which were being unloaded from the M/V Tacloban, and turned them over to the custody of the Bureau of Customs. The petitioner presented a sales invoice from the Jordan Trading of Iloilo (Annex A, Petition) to prove that the sugar was purchased locally. The District Collector of Customs, however, proceeded with the seizure of the bags of sugar. On June 3 and 6, 1988, show-cause hearings were conducted. On June 7, 1988, the District Collector of Customs ordered the release of the sugar as follows: WHEREFORE, premises considered subject Nine Thousand (9,000) sacks/bags of refined sugar are hereby ordered released to Mr. Jimmy O. Yaokasin, consignee/claimant and the immediate withdrawal of Customs Guard within its  bodega's premises. (p. 276, Rollo.) On June 10, 1988, the decision, together with the entire records of the case, were transmitted to, and received by, the Commissioner of Customs (Annex H, Petition,  p. 277, Rollo).  On June 14, 1988, without modifying his decision, the District Collector of Customs ordered the warehouse, wherein the bags of sugar were stored, to be sealed. On June 19, 1988, the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Board (EIIB) filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Annex I, Petition, p. 278, Rollo), for further hearing on the merits (p. 279, Rollo), based on evidence that the seized sugar was of foreign srcin. Petitioner opposed the motion for being merely pro forma and/or that the same was, in effect, a motion for new trial. Hearing Officer Paula Alcazaren set the Motion for reconsideration for hearing on July 13, 1988. But before that, or on July 4, 1988, the Commissioner of Customs by 2nd Indorsement returned to the District Collector of Customs the: ... folder of Tacloban S.I. No. 06-01 (R.P. vs. 9000 bags/sacks of refined sugar, MR. JIMMY YAOKASIN, consignee/claimant), together with the proposed decision, for hearing and/or resolution of the government is motion for reconsideration ... . (p. 437, Rollo, Emphasis Ours.) On the same date, July 4, 1988, petitioner applied for and secured a writ of replevin from the Regional Trial Court of Leyte (CC 7627, Branch VII), through a Petition/Complaint for certiorari Prohibition with Replevin and Damages with Preliminary Injunction and/or Restraining Order (Annex L, Petition, p. 288, Rollo). On July 12, 1988, respondent District Collector of Customs filed an Answer assailing the court's jurisdiction. On the same day, the District Collector and the Commissioner of Customs filed in the Court of Appeals a Petition for certiorari and Prohibition with Application for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Restraining Order to annul the July 4, 1988 - Order Granting Replevin with Temporary Restraining Order (CA-G.R. SP NO. 15090; p. 396, Rollo). On July 15, 1988, the Collector of Customs reconsidered his June 7, 1988 decision, as follows:  WHEREFORE, the undersigned hereby reconsiders his Decision, finds that the 9,000 bags/sacks of refined sugar in question are of foreign srcin, smuggled into the country, and declares them forfeited in favor of the government. Considering the provision in the quoted Customs Memorandum Order, especially the latter part thereof prohibiting the release of the articles in question to the claimant, and considering also that the said sacks of sugar are presently stored in the bodega of claimant, and considering further that there are no facilities for storage in Tacloban City, for security reasons, the Honorable Commissioner of Customs is respectfully and earnestly urged to order the immediate transfer of the sugar from the said bodega to any Customs Warehouse, preferably in Manila and to this end to order the setting aside of such sum of money in order to effectively accomplish this purpose. (p. 11, Rollo.) Also, on the same day, the Court of Appeals: (a) gave due course to respondent's  petition; and (b) restrained Judge Pedro S. Espina, Regional Trial Court, Leyte, from further proceeding in Civil Case No. 7627, and from enforcing his Order of July 4, 1988. It is petitioner's contention that the June 7, 1988 decision of the District Collector of Customs became final and executory, in view of the absence of an appeal therefrom by the aggrieved party (himself) within the 15-day period provided for in Sec. 2313 of the Tariff and Customs Code. Hence, the release of the 9,000 bags of sugar must be upheld. On the other hand, the District Collector and the Commissioner of Customs argue that since the June 7, 1988 decision is adverse to the government, the case should go to the Commissioner of Customs on automatic review, pursuant to Memorandum Order No. 20-87, dated May 18, 1987, of former Acting Commissioner of Customs Alexander Padilla, which provides: CUSTOMS MEMORANDUM ORDER  NO. 20-87 TO: All Collectors of Customs and Others   Effective immediately, you are hereby directed to implement strictly the following - Decisions of the Collector of Customs in seizure and protest cases are subject to review by the Commissioner upon appeal as provided under existing laws;  provided, however, that where a decision of the Collector of Customs in such seizure and protest cases is adverse to the government it shall automatically be reviewed by the Commissioner of Customs. (PD. No. 1, Annex C.) In view thereof, no releases in any seizure or like cases may be effected unless and until the decision of the Collector has been confirmed in writing by the Commissioner of Customs For immediate and strict compliance. (Sgd.) ALEXANDER A. PADILLA Acting Commissioner of Customs (p. 436, Rollo; Emphasis Ours) The memorandum order implements Section 12 (Art. IV, Part. IV, Vol. I) of the Integrated Reorganization Plan (hereafter, PLAN ) which provides: 12. The Collector of Customs at each principal port of entry shall be the official head of the customs service in his port and district responsible to the Commissioner. He shall have the authority to take final action on the enforcement of tariff and customs laws within his collection district and on administrative matters in accordance with Chapter III, Part II of this Plan. Decisions of the Collector of Customs in seizure and protest cases are subject to review by the
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