March 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 214430, March 09, 2016 - FELICITO M. MEJORADO, Petitioner, v. HON. FLORENCIO B. ABAD, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, Respondent.
G.R. No. 214430, March 09, 2016
FELICITO M. MEJORADO, Petitioner, v. HON. FLORENCIO B. ABAD, IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is a Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for Preliminary Prohibitory and Mandatory Injunction1 filed by petitioner Felicito M. Mejorado (petitioner) seeking to compel respondent Honorable Florencio B. Abad (respondent), in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), after due proceedings, to issue the Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) covering the informer's reward claimed by petitioner.
Sometime in December 1996 and the early part of 1997, petitioner documented 62 smuggled oil importations from 1991 to 1997 of Union Refinery Corporation (URC), OILINK Industrial Corporation (OILINK),2 Union Global Trading (UGT), and Philippine Airlines (PAL). He provided confidential information detailing the illegal importations of the said companies to the now-defunct Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).3
Based on the information petitioner furnished, the BOC investigated 23 out of the 62 smuggled oil importations he reported. The investigation resulted in the payment by the four (4) companies of millions in unpaid Value-Added Tax (VAT), excise, and ad valorem taxes from 1997 to 1998. Thus, petitioner filed his first claim for informer's reward with the BOC and the Department of Finance (DOF).4
Subsequently, the BOC investigated 30 additional smuggled oil importations out of the 62 that petitioner reported. From this investigation, it was able to collect deficiency taxes from URC, OILINK, and PAL, prompting petitioner to file his second claim for informer's fee on May 12, 2000.5
Records show that petitioner was able to receive the amount of P63,185,959.73 as informer's fee for the first claim on April 19, 2006.6
On April 19, 2005, in response to an inquiry from the DOF relative to informer's reward, the Department of Justice (DOJ), through then Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez (Secretary Gonzalez), rendered Opinion No. 18, series of 20057 (2005 Opinion) stating that there is no conflict between Section 3513 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP),8 as amended by Republic Act No. (RA) 4712,9 a special law, and Section 282 of RA 8424, otherwise known as the Tax Reform Act of 1997,10 which amended the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), a general law.11 Section 3513 of the TCCP states:
Section 3513. Reward to persons instrumental in the discovery and seizure of smuggled goods. - To encourage the public and law enforcement personnel to extend full cooperation and do their utmost in stamping out smuggling, a cash reward [equivalent] to twenty per centum of the fair market value of the smuggled and confiscated goods shall be given to the officers and men and informers who are instrumental in the discovery and seizure of such goods in accordance with the rules and regulations to be issued by the Secretary of Finance. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)On the other hand, Section 282 of the NIRC, as amended, states:
Section 282. Informer's Reward to Persons Instrumental in the Discovery of Violations of the National Internal Revenue Code and in the Discovery and Seizure of Smuggled Goods. -In its 2005 Opinion, the DOJ opined that the provisions of the TCCP specifically cover tariff and customs duties, while the provisions of the NIRC govern all internal revenue taxes in general.12 The Office of the President (OP) concurred in this pronouncement.13
(A) For Violations of the National Internal Revenue Code. Any person, except an internal revenue official or employee, or other public official or employee, or his relative within the sixth degree of consanguinity, who voluntarily gives definite and sworn information, not yet in the possession of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, leading to the discovery of frauds upon the internal revenue laws or violations of any of the provisions thereof, thereby resulting in the recovery of revenues, surcharges and fees and/or the conviction of the guilty party and/or the imposition of any of the fine or penalty, shall be rewarded in a sum equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the revenues, surcharges or fees recovered and/or fine or penalty imposed and collected or One Million Pesos (P1,000,000) per case, whichever is lower. The same amount of reward shall also be given to an informer where the offender has offered to compromise the violation of law committed by him and his offer has been accepted by the Commissioner and collected from the offender: Provided, That should no revenue, surcharges or fees be actually recovered or collected, such person shall not be entitled to a reward: Provided, further, That the information mentioned herein shall not refer to a case already pending or previously investigated or examined by the Commissioner or any of his deputies, agents or examiners, or the Secretary of Finance or any of his deputies or agents: Provided, finally, That the reward provided herein shall be paid under rules and regulations issued by the Secretary of Finance, upon recommendation of the Commissioner.
(B) For Discovery and Seizure of Smuggled Goods. To encourage the public to extend full cooperation in eradicating smuggling, a cash reward equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the fair market value of the smuggled and confiscated goods or One Million Pesos (P1,000,000) per case, whichever is lower, shall be given to persons instrumental in the discovery and seizure of such smuggled goods.
x x x x (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
Thus, on April 12, 2007, the DOF favorably indorsed14 petitioner's second claim to the BOC amounting to P272,064,996.55, or twenty percent (20%) of the total deficiency assessed and collected from URC, OILINK, and PAL, based on Section 3513 of the TCCP.
Subsequently, on September 8, 2008, the OP directed15 the DBM to issue an NCA covering the second claim16 of petitioner.17
Apparently due to lack of response, on August 22, 2011, the BOC itself also requested from the DBM the issuance and release of the NCA pertaining to petitioner's second claim.18
On March 28, 2012, National Treasurer Roberto B. Tan certified that the amount pertaining to petitioner's second claim was still available and may be paid to the latter anytime.19 Thus, on April 18, 2012, the BOC once again requested from the DBM, through respondent, the issuance of the NCA to cover the payment of petitioner's second claim.20 Petitioner himself also wrote letters21 to the DBM reiterating the request for the issuance of said NCA.
On June 8, 2012, in response to an inquiry from the DOF regarding the percentage of fees that should be given to informers, the DOJ, through former Secretary Leila M. De Lima (Secretary De Lima), issued Opinion No. 40, series of 201222 (2012 Opinion) superseding the 2005 Opinion issued by then Secretary Gonzalez. In the 2012 Opinion, the DOJ declared that Section 3513 of the TCCP has been impliedly repealed, or at the very least, amended or modified by Section 282 (B) of the NIRC, as amended, since they both refer to the same subject matter and contain inconsistent provisions.23 As such, under Section 282 (B) of the NIRC, as amended - the controlling provision with respect to informer's reward for discovery and seizure of smuggled goods - the amount of the reward is only ten percent (10%) of the fair market value of the smuggled and confiscated goods or P1,000,000.00, whichever is lower.24
In a letter25 dated December 16, 2013, the DOF sought clarification from the DOJ on the implication of the following statements: (1) the pronouncement in the 2012 Opinion may be applied to claims for informer's rewards for discovery and seizure of smuggled goods filed even before the issuance of the 2012 Opinion, as long as said claims were filed after the effectivity of the Tax Reform Act; (2) considering that Section 282 (B) of the NIRC, as amended, is the controlling provision with respect to the informer's reward for discovery and seizure of smuggled goods, the DOF may revise the awards it has made on the basis of Section 3513 of the TCCP and the DOJ's 2005 Opinion; and (3) the Republic of the Philippines may, therefore, recover amounts erroneously awarded to a number of claimants on the basis of Section 3513 of the TCCP and the said 2005 Opinion.26
In response thereto, the DOJ rendered Opinion No. 01, series of 201427 dated January 8, 2014 (2014 Opinion) stating that its opinions are not administrative issuances that interpret the law, but rather, are purely advisory in nature.28 Thus, it maintained that it is not the DOJ, but the DOF and the BOC, which are primarily charged with the implementation, administration, and enforcement of the TCCP and the NIRC, that should issue administrative issuances interpreting said laws.29
Thereafter, in a letter30 dated May 2, 2014, the DBM informed petitioner that it has yet to receive a favorable endorsement from the DOF on its request for re-evaluation of his claim. It also informed petitioner of the DOJ's 2012 Opinion stating that under Section 282 (B) of the NIRC, only ten percent (10%) of the fair market value of the smuggled goods or P1,000,000.00, whichever is lower, is given as informer's fee.31
To date, the DBM has not issued any NCA pertaining to the amount of petitioner's second claim for informer's fee; hence, this petition for mandamus praying, inter alia, that respondent be directed to issue the NCA covering his second claim and that the amount thereof be released to him with interest at the legal rate.
In his Comment,32 respondent, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), maintained, inter alia, that: (1) Section 3513 of the TCCP has been repealed by the NIRC, as amended;33 (2) mistaken acts of public officials, i.e., the 2005 Opinion of the DOJ, cannot validate a claim based on a repealed law;34 and (3) petitioner is not entitled to legal interest on his informer's fee, for lack of legal basis.35
The sole issue to be resolved by the Court is whether or not respondent may be compelled by mandamus to issue the NCA corresponding to the amount of petitioner's second claim for informer's fee.
The petition is bereft of merit.
It is settled that mandamus is employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial duty, but not to compel the performance of a discretionary duty. Mandamus will not issue to enforce a right which is in substantial dispute or to which a substantial doubt exists.36 In Star Special Watchman and Detective Agency, Inc. v. Puerto Princesa City,37 a case cited at length by petitioner himself,38 the Court elucidated on the propriety of the issuance of the writ of mandamus in this wise:
Mandamus is a command issuing from a court of law of competent jurisdiction, in the name of the state or the sovereign, directed to some inferior court, tribunal, or board, or to some corporation or person requiring the performance of a particular duty therein specified, which duty results from the official station of the party to whom the writ is directed or from operation of law. This definition recognizes the public character of the remedy, and clearly excludes the idea that it may be resorted to for the purpose of enforcing the performance of duties in which the public has no interest. The writ is a proper recourse for citizens who seek to enforce a public right and to compel the performance of a public duty, most especially when the public right involved is mandated by the Constitution. As the quoted provision instructs, mandamus will lie if the tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station.In this case, petitioner's right to receive the amount of his second claim, i.e., P272,064,996.55 or twenty percent (20%) of the total deficiency taxes assessed and collected from URC, OILINK, UGT, and PAL, which was based on Section 3513 of the TCCP, is still in substantial dispute, as exhibited by the variance in opinions rendered by the DOJ as well as the BOC and the DOF regarding the applicable laws.
The writ of mandamus, however, will not issue to compel an official to do anything which is not his duty to do or which it is his duty not to do, or to give to the applicant anything to which he is not entitled by law. Nor will mandamus issue to enforce a right which is in substantial dispute or as to which a substantial doubt exists, although objection raising a mere technical question will be disregarded if the right is clear and the case is meritorious. As a rule, mandamus will not lie in the absence of any of the following grounds: [a] that the court, officer, board, or person against whom the action is taken unlawfully neglected the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from office, trust, or station; or [b] that such court, officer, board, or person has unlawfully excluded petitioner/relator from the use and enjoyment of a right or office to which he is entitled. On the part of the relator, it is essential to the issuance of a writ of mandamus that he should have a clear legal right to the thing demanded and it must be the imperative duty of respondent to perform the act required.
x x x x
Moreover, an important principle followed in the issuance of the writ is that there should be no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law other than the remedy of mandamus being invoked. In other words, mandamus can be issued only in cases where the usual modes of procedure and forms of remedy are powerless to afford relief. Although classified as a legal remedy, mandamus is equitable in its nature and its issuance is generally controlled by equitable principles. Indeed, the grant of the writ of mandamus lies in the sound discretion of the court.39 (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
It bears reiteration that the writ of mandamus may only issue if the party claiming it has a well-defined, clear, and certain legal right to the thing demanded, and that it was the imperative duty of respondent to perform the act required to accord the same upon him. Petitioner's prayer for the issuance of the NCA to cover the amount of his second claim falls short of this standard, there being no clear and specific duty on the part of the respondent to issue the same.
In fine, the Court dismisses the present petition for mandamus for being the improper remedy to obtain the relief sought for. It should, however, be made clear that the dismissal is without prejudice to petitioner's recourse before the proper forum for the apt resolution of the subject claim.chanrobleslaw
WHEREFORE, the petition for mandamus is DENIED.
Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1Rollo, pp. 3-69.
2 Sometimes referred to as "OILLINK"; see rollo, p. 9.
3 Id. at 9.
5 Id. at 10-11 and 137-138.
6 Id. at 70-71.
7 Id. at 72-75. Signed by Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez.
8 Entitled "AN ACT TO REVISE AND CODIFY THE TARIFF AND CUSTOMS LAWS OF THE PHILIPPINES," approved on June 22, 1957.
9 Entitled "AN ACT AMENDING CERTAIN SECTIONS OF THE TARIFF AND CUSTOMS CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES," approved on June 18, 1966.
10 Entitled "AN ACT AMENDING THE NATIONAL INTERNAL REVENUE CODE, AS AMENDED, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES" (January 1, 1998).
11Rollo, pp. 11-12.
12 Id. at 74.
13 See id. at 76-78. See letter dated by August 3, 2005 signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita.
14 See 2nd Indorsement signed by members Gil S. Beltran, Ma. Teresa S. Habitan, Ma. Lourdes V. Dedal, and Eleazar C. Cesista and approved by Committee on Rewards Undersecretary and Chairman Gaudencio A. Mendoza, Jr.; id. at 79-81.
15 See Memorandum from the Executive Secretary signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita; id. at 82.
16 See 2nd Indorsement dated April 12, 2007; id at 81.
17 The amount of the second claim was increased from P272,064,996.55 to P272,074,992.91. See id. at 82.
18 Id. at 83. Signed by Commissioner Angelito A. Alvarez.
19 Id. at 84.
20 Id. at 85. Signed by Commissioner Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon.
21 See id. at 86-89-A.
22 Id. at 89-B-93. Signed by Secretary Leila M. De Lima.
23 Id. at 92.
24 Id. at 90.cralawred
25 Id. at 94-98. Signed by Secretary of Finance Cesar V. Purisima.
26 Id. at 96.cralawred
27 Id. at 99-102.
28 Id. at 101.
29 Id. at 102.
30 Id. at 103. Signed by DBM Undersecretary Luz M. Cantor.
32 Id. at 136-152.
33 See id. at 142-147.
34 See id. at 147-148.
35 See id. at 149-150.
36Angeles v. The Secretary of Justice, 628 Phil. 381, 396 (2010); citation omitted.
37 G.R. No. 181792, April 21, 2014, 722 SCRA 66.
38Rollo, pp. 42-45.
39Star Special Watchman and Detective Agency, Inc. v. Puerto Princesa City, supra note 37, at 80-82; citation omitted.