Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1998 > September 1998 Decisions > G.R. No. 129680 September 1, 1998 - CARRARA MARBLE PHIL. v. COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 129680. September 1, 1999.]

CARRARA MARBLE PHILIPPINES, INC., Petitioner, v. COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS, Respondent.


D E C I S I O N


DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:


In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioner urges us to set aside the decision 1 and resolution 2 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 42976 affirming the decision of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA). The CTA upheld the legality of the forfeiture proceedings conducted by the Collector of Customs of articles illegally withdrawn from Customs custody, and ordered their delivery to the winning bidder in the auction sale.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

As summarized by the Court of Appeals, the antecedents of the case are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

On April 10, 1987, the Collector of Customs conducted a public auction sale of various articles duly declared abandoned after appropriate proceedings. Included in the sale was Lot 15 advertised as "15 tons more or less, of marble processing machine and grinding machine, rusty and in junk condition," stored at the Mina Amapola CY-CFS, Taguig, Metro Manila, since 1979. Lot 15 was awarded to Engr. Franklin G. Policarpio as the highest bidder thereof, after payment of P61, 250.00.

On April 21, 1987, after Engr. Policarpio had taken delivery of said lot, he wrote the Collector of Customs informing him that the following items supposed to be part of Lot 15 were missing: a Special Circular Saw (for vertical and horizontal cutting of strips Model Block Tailor BK-1200 with switch gear and contractor control and reinforcement main motor) and a Diamond Sawing Machine (Model TBS 500D, including switch gear cabinet with contractor for all motors).

The missing machineries were later found installed in the compound of petitioner Carrara Marble Philippines, Inc., Lipa City, Batangas, true to the information furnished by Engr. Policarpio himself.

Consequently, for alleged violations of Section 2536 (non-payment of duties and taxes) and Section 2530[e] (illegal removal of articles from the warehouse) of the Tariff and Customs Code (TCC), the aforesaid machineries were seized (per Warrant of Seizure and Detention dated May 29, 1991) from the compound of petitioner at Banay-banay, Lipa City.

During the seizure and forfeiture proceedings, Carrara Marble Philippines, Inc., failed to present evidence of payment of duties and taxes on the subject machineries. In its defense, it claimed, that the machineries were purchased locally from a certain Jaina Perez as evidenced by two notarized deeds of absolute sale dated December 20, 1985 (for the trimming machine) and October 28, 1986 (for the high speed blocksaw). Meanwhile, Engr. Policarpio intervened in said proceedings, claiming ownership over the subject machineries as the successful bidder in the public auction sale conducted by the Bureau of Customs wherein said machineries were part of Lot 15.

In a letter dated November 14, 1992, petitioner offered to settle the case in accordance with Article 2307 of the TCC. However, said offer was refused by the District Collector of Customs on the ground that said articles were already auctioned off and awarded to Engr. Policarpio.

Thereafter, the Collector of Customs on June 24, 1992, declared the machineries forfeited in favor of the government. Petitioner appealed from the Collector of Customs’ decision to the Commissioner of Customs who, on July 2, 1993, affirmed said decision.

From said Decision of the Commissioner of Customs, appeal by way of a petition for review was further taken by herein petitioner Carrara Marble Philippines, Inc., to the Court of Tax Appeals. Engr. Franklin Policarpio, as intervenor, also appealed the same decision of the Commissioner of Customs to the Tax Court, which was docketed as CTA Case No. 5057, and entitled "Engineer Franklin Policarpio v. The Honorable Commissioner of Customs and Deputy Commissioner of Customs Licerio Evangelista." 3

The CTA allowed Mary Ann Luz Puno and other individuals claiming to be minority stockholders and receivers of petitioner to intervene in the proceedings. The intervenors’ prayer for possession of the machineries was granted conditioned upon the posting of a cash bond. However, they submitted the case for decision on 4 March 1996 without posting the bond.chanrobles.com : virtual law library

On 7 May 1996, the CTA dismissed the petition for review filed by petitioner; affirmed the authority of the Customs Commissioner to seize the machineries; and ordered the Commissioner to deliver the articles to Policarpio as the highest bidder in accordance with its decision in CTA Case No. 5057. 4

The intervenors moved for the reconsideration 5 of the CTA’s decision. On 8 October 1996, the CTA denied 6 the motion for reconsideration.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals sustained the CTA and dismissed the petition for lack of merit, capitalizing on the contract of sale between the Bureau of Customs and Policarpio, which allows a refund in case of loss or short-delivery. In case a refund is made, it is as if duties, taxes and charges on the articles remained unpaid. Consequently, importation could not be considered terminated, and the Collector of Customs was still authorized to seize the articles pursuant to Section 2530(e) of the Tariff and Customs Code (TCC).

The Court of Appeals noted that petitioner’s argument that with the termination of importation the Bureau of Customs lost its jurisdiction over the res was premised upon Policarpio’s ownership of the property. Such premise conflicted with petitioner’s pretension of being a buyer in good faith and for value, and foreclosed the possibility of a compromise. The notarized deeds of sale were merely prima facie evidence of ownership which failed to prove petitioner’s claim over the property. Section 2535 of the TCC laying the burden of proof on the claimant still applied. The Court of Appeals concluded that the jurisdiction of the Collector of Customs in forfeiture proceedings extends to all questions incidental thereto including the authority to determine the true ownership of forfeited property.

Petitioner then filed on 6 June 1997 a motion for reconsideration 7 of the decision of the Court of Appeals. That motion was, however, denied for failure to state the material dates showing that it was filed on time, as required by Section 1, Rule 9, of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals.

Hence this petition.

Petitioner insists that the purpose of Section 1, Rule 9 of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals requiring motions for reconsideration to state material dates is to show that they were filed on time. It had substantially complied with that requirement because its Compliance 8 dated 28 May 1997 indicated that it received the challenged decision on 23 May 1997; thus, its filing of the motion for reconsideration was well within the reglementary period prescribed by law.

Petitioner likewise contends that the Bureau of Customs had no jurisdiction over the res because importation had terminated. Forfeiture as a remedy of the government is authorized under Section 2530 of the TCC only when and while the articles are in the custody or within the jurisdiction of customs authorities or in the hands or subject to the control of the importer. When the articles were awarded to Policarpio as the winning bidder in the auction sale, taxes, duties and charges due on them were considered paid; the government was compensated, and so it no longer stood to suffer damages from the importation. Furthermore, with the legal permit for withdrawal of the articles having been granted, the government lost its lien over the property. The "possibility" of a refund in case of short delivery under the warranty in Policarpio’s deed of sale only extends the definition of importation.

Asserting its "prior right" over the machineries, petitioner also argues that the Bureau of Customs was without authority to seize the same. There was no probable cause that would warrant seizure and forfeiture of the subject articles. Neither was there evidence that the articles were part of Lot 15. Petitioner acquired the machineries in good faith and for value, as confirmed by two notarized deeds of sale; and it was unaware that they were imported. Hence, resort should have been through judicial process under Article 433 of the Civil Code. Besides, before forfeiture proceedings can be instituted as provided for in Section 2530 of the TCC, there must be fraud upon the government. Fraud cannot be presumed; and without evidence that petitioner acquired the machineries fraudulently, it must be presumed the owner of the articles.

Moreover, petitioner maintains that no justifiable reason existed for denying its offer of a compromise in accordance with Section 2307 of the TCC. There was no fraud in the importation of the property. Neither did petitioner’s offer signify that it waived previous defenses and admitted liability.

Finally, petitioner reiterates that the Bureau of Customs had neither authority to seize the articles to determine their true ownership nor jurisdiction to decide questions of ownership.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

Respondent sees the matter differently. It accuses petitioner of forum-shopping and of employing delaying tactics and maneuvers which hamper the ends of justice. Respondent contends that petitioner’s substantial compliance with Section 1, Rule 9 of the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals notwithstanding, the law allows dismissal of the motion for reconsideration for failure to comply with the material data rule.

Respondent also insists that the Bureau of Customs had jurisdiction over the machineries. As held by the CTA and the Court of Appeals, the loss of the machineries would mean their non-delivery to Policarpio, thus creating an obligation on the part of the government to refund a proportionate amount of the purchase price paid by Policarpio. Fraudulent removal of the machineries from the warehouse under Customs supervision made Section 2530 of the TCC applicable.

Respondent further points out that petitioner was unable to prove that the subject items were indeed sold to it by Jaina Perez. The latter and the notaries public who notarized the alleged deeds of sale were not presented as witnesses. Besides, said items were stolen; so the alleged seller had no right to pass on to petitioner as buyer. Likewise, petitioner’s failure to present receipts validating its ownership of the property was sufficient cause for instituting seizure and forfeiture proceedings. Pursuant to Section 2535 of the TCC, the burden of proof was shifted to petitioner, who, however, failed to substantiate its good faith and lack of knowledge of the importation.

Finally, respondent claims that settlement of seizure cases is not allowed under Section 2307 of the TCC where the importation is absolutely prohibited or the release of the property is contrary to law, which is what obtains in this case. Petitioner’s offer of compromise puts it in estoppel and negates its argument questioning the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Customs.

The questions for our resolution are the following:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) Was the dismissal of the petition by the Court of Appeals under Section 1, Rule 9 of its Revised Internal Rules of Procedure correct?

(2) Was the forfeiture of articles in the possession of a third party made after the sale at public auction proper?

(3) Has the importation been terminated?

(4) Who has the right to retain possession over the machineries?

Petitioner cannot find fault with the denial of its motion for reconsideration. It admitted non-compliance with the requisites of Section 1, Rule 9 of the Revised Internal Rules of Procedure of the Court of Appeals, for indeed nothing in the motion indicated that it was filed on time. Its Compliance anteriorly filed did not cure the defect. It must be stressed that the rule was designed to save the Court of Appeals from reviewing the record to determine whether the motion was indeed filed on time.

And now on the substantive issues.

The Tariff and Customs law subjects to forfeiture any article which is removed contrary to law from any public or private warehouse under customs supervision, 9 or released irregularly from Customs custody. 10 Before forfeiture proceedings are instituted the law requires the presence of probable cause. Once established, the burden of proof is shifted to the claimant. 11 Under Section 2536 of the TCC, the Commissioner of Customs, Collector of Customs or any other customs officer, with prior authorization in writing by the Commissioner, may demand evidence of payment of duties and taxes on foreign articles openly offered for sale or kept in storage; and if no such evidence can be produced, such articles may be seized and subjected to forfeiture proceedings; provided, however, that during such proceedings the person or entity from whom such articles were seized shall be given an opportunity to prove or show the source of such articles and the payment of duties and taxes thereon.chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

The findings of fact of the CTA on this matter is informative.

So it remains undisputed that after the auction sale and before delivery to Mr. Policarpio, as the winning bidder, the subject articles were carted away mysteriously from customs custody and reappeared thereafter in the premises of herein petitioner. There is no question that before delivery of these items to Mr. Franklin Policarpio, these items were under the custody of the Bureau of Customs and when they were about to be handed over to Mr. Policarpio, the latter discovered the said items to be missing. 12

It is settled that the factual findings of the CTA, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are entitled to the highest respect 13 and are well-nigh conclusive upon this court. 14 Based on the findings of the CTA, the subject machineries were liable to forfeiture under customs law. Upon demand for evidence of payment of duties and taxes, petitioner failed to present receipts. What it presented were two notarized deeds of sale executed in 1985 and 1986 between petitioner as buyer and Jaina Perez as seller.

Despite ample opportunity to discharge the burden of proof, petitioner failed to prove its claim over the machineries. Jaina Perez, the supposed seller, was subpoenaed to substantiate petitioner’s claim; but she never appeared. The notaries public before whom the deed of sale were notarized were not presented either. More importantly, there was no intervening transaction between Perez and the Bureau of Customs concerning the subject machineries that would have transferred their ownership to Perez and thereafter to petitioner. That the goods were allegedly sold to petitioner in 1985 and 1986 while they were still under Customs custody and prior to the auction sale is legally untenable and unacceptable.

Contrary to the CTA’s rationale for sanctioning the forfeiture, importation was terminated after Policarpio signed Gate Pass No. 5136 on 10 April 1987 evidencing withdrawal of Lot No. 15 from customs custody. Importation is deemed terminated upon payment of duties, taxes and other charges due or secured to be paid upon the articles at a port of entry, and upon the grant of a legal permit for withdrawal; or in case said articles are free of duties, taxes and other charges, until they have legally left the jurisdiction of the customs. 15 The forfeiture of the subject machineries however, is not dependent on whether or not the importation was terminated; rather it is premised on the illegal withdrawal of goods from Customs custody.

Thus, regardless of the termination of importation, Customs authorities may validly seize goods which, for all intents and purposes, still belong to the government. This is so because forfeiture takes effect immediately upon the commission of the offense. The forfeiture of the subject machineries, therefore, retroacted to the date they were illegally withdrawn from Customs custody. The government’s right to recover the machineries proceeds from its right as lawful owner and possessor thereof upon abandonment by Filipinas Marble. Such right may be asserted no matter into whose hands the property may have come, and the condemnation when obtained avoids all intermediate alienations. 16 To sanction petitioner’s possession of the property would be to close our eyes to acts of defraudation practiced upon the government.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Incidentally, the forfeiture of the subject machineries rests on a different statutory basis from Policarpio’s right to receive the property as winning bidder in the auction sale. The forfeiture proceedings were based upon the government’s right to recover property illegally withdrawn from its custody. On the other hand, Policarpio’s right stems from the government’s contractual obligation to deliver the machineries to Policarpio as buyer in good faith at the public auction sale.

Petitioner’s contention of being a buyer in good faith and for value with a prior right over the property is likewise untenable. Petitioner allegedly derived its right over the property through the deeds of sale executed by and between it, as buyer, and a certain Jaina Perez, as seller, prior to the auction sale. The following, however, is worthy to note:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

[T]he subject pieces of machinery were part of lot 15 which was sold in an auction sale to satisfy the unpaid taxes, duties and other charges. Such machineries were imported but later abandoned by Filipinas Marble in favor of the government. The fact that this shipment formed part of lot 15 is undisputed by both parties to this case. 17

Before such machineries were allegedly sold to petitioner they formed part of the mass of Customs property stored inside the Mina Amapola CY-CFS in Taguig. Records of the Bureau of Customs indicated no transactions concerning the subject machineries except the abandonment by Filipinas Marble and the auction sale to Policarpio. Contrary to petitioner’s contention, it is the sale of the subject machineries to petitioner by Jaina Perez, not the sale to Policarpio, that is ineffective. The government never dealt with Jaina Perez; hence Perez, having no right over the property, had nothing to transfer to petitioner 18 even if petitioner’s alleged acquisition of the property was in good faith and for value.

Lastly, as opined by the Collector of Customs, compromise could not be allowed anymore, since the subject machineries had already been awarded to Policarpio, being the highest bidder in the public auction sale conducted by the Bureau of Customs.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED, for lack of merit, and the challenged decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Puno, Kapunan, Pardo and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Rollo, 65-75. Per Alicia Austria-Martinez, J., with Buena, A., and Callejo, Sr., R., JJ., concurring.

2. Rollo, 77.

3. Rollo, 65, 67-68.

4. Rollo, 106-119. Per Associate Judge Ramon O. De Veyra, with Associate Judges Ernesto D. Acosta and Manuel K. Gruba, concurring.

5. Rollo, 208-211.

6. Id., 220.

7. Id., 230-260.

8. Rollo, 228-229.

9. Section 2530, par. (e), Tariff and Customs Code (TCC)

10. De Joya v. Lantin, 19 SCRA 893, 897 (1967)

11. Section 2535, TCC.

12. CTA Decision; Rollo, 113.

13. Nasiad v. CTA, 61 SCRA 238, 244 (1974); Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Cadwallader Pacific Company, 73 SCRA 59 (1976); Raymundo v. De Joya, 101 SCRA 495, 498 (1980)

14. Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. PJ Kiener Co. Ltd., 65 SCRA 142, 153 (1975)

15. Section 1202, TCC.

16. 21 Am Jur 2d, Customs Duties and Import Regulations 125 (1965)

17. CTA Decision; Rollo, 112.

18. See Article 1459, Civil Code, which provides: "The thing must be licit and the vendor must have a right to transfer the ownership thereof at the time it is delivered." chanrobles law library




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  • G.R. No. 129304 September 27, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. AVA MA. VICTORIA CARIQUEZ

  • G.R. No. 135691 September 27, 1998 - EMMANUEL SINACA v. MIGUEL MULA, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 105954-55 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. IRENEO FAJARDO

  • G.R. No. 114323 September 28, 1998 - OIL AND NATURAL GAS COMMISSION v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 126152 September 28, 1998 - PNB v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128806 September 28, 1998 - KAMS INTERNATIONAL INC, ET AL.. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130632 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NATY CHUA

  • G.R. No. 131621 September 28, 1998 - LOADSTAR SHIPPING CO. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 132324 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NORLITO TAN, and JOSE TAN

  • G.R. No. 136294 September 28, 1998 - MARIA G. BALUYUT, ET AL. v. RODOLFO GUIAO, ET AL.

  • A.C. No. 4017 September 29, 1998 - GATCHALIAN PROMOTIONS TALENTS POOL v. PRIMO R. NALDOZA

  • A.C. No. 5141 September 29, 1998 - PRISCILA L. TOLEDO v. ERLINDA ABALOS

  • A.M. No. CA-99-30 September 29, 1998 - UNITED BF HOMEOWNERS v. ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, ET AL.

  • A.M. No. MTJ-94-904 September 29, 1998 - JOSEPHINE C. MARTINEZ v. CESAR N. ZOLETA

  • G.R. No. 105374 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MAXIMO (DAGIT) RABANG, JR.

  • G.R. No. 124736 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROMEO GALLO

  • G.R. No. 125330 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. GODOFREDO TAHOP

  • G.R. No. 128157 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MANUEL MANAHAN

  • G.R. No. 132878 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. EDUARDO GUTIERREZ

  • G.R. No. 137793 September 29, 1998 - NILO H. RAYMUNDO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 139281 September 29, 1998 - ROMUALDO SUAREZ v. ARSENIO SALAZAR

  • A.M. No. MTJ-99-1209 September 30, 1998 - FLAVIANO G. ARQUERO v. TERTULO A. MENDOZA

  • G.R. No. 105327 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. JUANITO QUINAGORAN

  • G.R. No. 108135-36 September 30, 1998 - POTENCIANA M. EVANGELISTA v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 111915 September 30, 1998 - HEIRS OF FERNANDO VINZONS v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 113070 September 30, 1998 - PAMPIO A. ABARINTOS, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 113781 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL v. VERGILIO REYES

  • G.R. No. 120235 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ALEX DE LOS SANTOS

  • G.R. No. 121324 September 30, 1998 - PEPSI-COLA PRODUCTS PHIL INC. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 122269 September 30, 1998 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHIL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, Et. Al.

  • G.R. Nos. 127173-74 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. FRENETO CERVETO

  • G.R. No. 127608 September 30, 1998 - GUADALUPE S. REYES v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128129 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. TUNDAGUI GAYOMMA

  • G.R. No. 128862 September 30, 1998 - ESTRELLA REAL ESTATE CORP. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130425 September 30, 1998 - ANTONIO C. CAÑETE JR. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 131166 September 30, 1998 - CALTEX (PHIL.) v. SULPICIO LINES, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 132480 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RANDY RAQUIÑO

  • G.R. No. 135451 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. DANILO F. SERRANO, SR.

  • G.R. No. 135996 September 30, 1998 - EMILIANO R. "BOY" CARUNCHO III v. COMELEC, ET AL.