Proposed customs order on seizure, forfeiture and appeals process released

Proposed customs order on seizure, forfeiture and appeals process released


The draft rule implementing government seizure and forfeiture proceedings against goods and transport vehicles suspected of violating provisions of the Philippine Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) is out.

The proposed customs administrative order (CAO) crafted by the Department of Finance (DOF) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) also specifies the appeals process the aggrieved party may take against such actions.

The rule covers all imported and exported goods, stores, supplies, packages, receptacles, vessels, aircraft, and vehicles that may be involved in possible violations committed against Republic Act No. 10863, otherwise known as CMTA.

Position papers on the draft CAO will be accepted by BOC until March 16, the day of the public hearing on the proposed rule.

Under the draft, authorized to seize goods are the following: BOC district collectors, deputy district collectors, police officers, agents, inspectors and guards; officers and members of the Armed Forces and national law enforcement agencies authorized by the Customs commissioner; and Bureau of Internal Revenue officials, when payment of internal revenue taxes is involved.

Properties that may be seized or forfeited are import or export goods, vessels, aircraft, conveyance, receptacles, and stores in circumstances provided under Title XI, Chapter IV, Section 1113 and Title II, Chapter III, Section No. 224 of the CMTA.

Seized cargo, stores, or supplies of a vessel or aircraft arriving from a foreign port which are unloaded before arriving at the port of destination without authority from the customs officer will not be forfeited in case of an accident, weather disturbance, or other similar events and with the later approval of the district collector.

A vehicle, vessel, or aircraft used to carry smuggled goods in commercial quantity will not be forfeited if it is a common carrier, if it has not been chartered to convey or transport persons or cargo, and if the owner or agent has no knowledge of and participation in the unlawful act.

However, a prima facie presumption against these vehicles, vessels, or aircraft is adopted in any of the following conditions: if they had been used in smuggling before; if the owner is not in the business for which the conveyance is generally used; and if the owner is not in a financial position to own such conveyance.

Seized properties may be forfeited only in any of these circumstances: the goods are in the custody or jurisdiction of customs officers; the goods are in the possession or custody, or subject to the control, of the importer, exporter, original owner, consignee, or agent of another person doing the importation, entry or exportation; and the goods are in the possession or custody, or subject to the control, of persons who shall receive, conceal, buy, sell, or transport the goods, or aid in any of such acts, knowing the goods were imported or were part of an attempt to import or export them unlawfully.

If the imported articles are in the possession of a third party who did not know or participate in their fraudulent importation or exportation, the goods will not be forfeited if duties, taxes, or other charges are paid.

The district collector with jurisdiction over the location of the seized goods will have the authority to issue a warrant of seizure and detention (WSD).

Only the part or portion of a shipment connected to the offense will be seized or detained, if the district collector is satisfied that the remainder of the shipment had not been used directly or indirectly in the illegal activity.

The WSD issued by the district collector may be quashed or recalled under any of these grounds: the claimant proves that duties and taxes have been paid as evidenced by authentic documents, and the release of the goods will not be contrary to law; when circumstances after the WSD was issued have changed and the basis for the WSD no longer exists; and the district collector issuing the WSD has no jurisdiction over the imported goods seized.

The importer may file a motion to quash the WSD within 10 calendar days of receiving the warrant. Motions to lift, recall, and dismiss the WSD shall be deemed as filing of a motion to quash. – Roumina Pablo

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