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BOC sues ‘Mighty judge’

TRO on raids of warehouses showed ‘deplorable, highly irregular conduct’

The Bureau of Customs Monday lodged an administrative complaint in the Supreme Court against a Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge for stopping it from raiding and inspecting the warehouses of homegrown cigarette firm Mighty Corp.

Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon accused Presiding Judge Tita Bughao Alisuag of Manila RTC Branch 1 of committing “gross and deplorable” conduct after she issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting Customs personnel from swooping down on the storage facilities of the Bulacan-based cigarette manufacturer.

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Mighty has been suspected of evading payment of billions of pesos in taxes by using fake tax stamps on its cigarette packs.

“(Alisuag’s) issuance of the (TRO) constitutes ignorance of the law, so gross that it strikes at the very core of the public’s faith and confidence on the integrity and competence of the country’s judicial system,” Faeldon said in his 24-page complaint.

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“Worse, it demonstrates deplorable and highly irregular conduct, causing grave and irreparable damage to the public in general to the benefit of suspect individuals,” he added.

By issuing the TRO, he said the judge only showed that she was “manifestly biased and partial in favor” of Mighty whose owner, Alexander Wongchuking, was ordered arrested by President Duterte last week for economic sabotage.

The customs commissioner also questioned Alisuag’s authority to issue the injunctive order, citing the circular issued by the Office of the Court Administrator in 2003 barring RTCs from granting TROs against the BOC.

“In sum, through her acts, it is clear in the instant case that (Alisuag) exhibited manifest bias and partiality in favor of Mighty Corp. to the prejudice of BOC and the public in general,” Faeldon argued.

The putschist-turned-public official urged the high court to hold the judge administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law and for violating the Supreme Court’s existing policies and circulars.

Said Faeldon: “(The TRO) effectively made Mighty Corp. untouchable and immune from any and all acts of the BoC.”

Alisuag issued the TRO upon Mighty’s petition filed on March 3, which alleged that the BOC and BIR operatives discovered “there were no counterfeit, fake or smuggled goods” in the warehouses but still proceeded with the raid, the conduct of which was not in the scope of their mission order.

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The TRO is effective for 20 days from the filing of the case on March 3, or up to March 23.

The BOC chief also stressed that Alisuag blatantly disregarded the long-established rule that regular courts do not have jurisdiction over seizure and forfeiture proceedings.

The BOC explained that it had exclusive jurisdiction over all seizure and forfeiture cases as per Section 202 of Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Faeldon stressed that Section 301 of the CMTA further provided that “[a]ll goods, including means of transport, entering or leaving customs territory, regardless of whether they are liable to duties and taxes, shall be subject to customs control.”

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