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SC stops BOC from collecting close to P1 B from Pilipinas Shell

MANILA, July 17 – The Supreme Court denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by Bureau of Customs (BOC) to collect almost PHP1 billion from oil giant Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. (PSPC).

The amount represents the total dutiable value of PSPC’s 1996 crude oil importation, which was considered as abandoned in favor of the government by operation of law.

In an eight-page resolution dated June 19, 2017 penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the SC’s Special Third Division also denied the agency’s plea to refer the case to the Court en banc.

The SC noted that the arguments raised by respondent in its Omnibus Motion were the very same arguments raised in the petition, which have already been evaluated and considered in the assailed Dec. 5, 2016 Decision.

“Ergo, the Court rejects these arguments on the same grounds discussed in the challenged Decision, and denies, as a matter of course, the pending motion,” the SC stressed.

“Acting on the Omnibus Motion (For Reconsideration and Referral to the Court En banc) dated Jan.20, 2017 filed by public respondent Commissioner of Customs, the Court denies the same for lack of merit,” the resolution read.

The SC ruled on Dec. 5 , 2016 that the BOC was already barred from collecting the dutiable value of the shipment amounting to PHP936,899,855.90 on the ground of prescription under Section 1603 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

The said provision provides that: “When articles have been entered and passed free of duty or final adjustments of duties made, with subsequent delivery, such entry and passage free of duty or settlements of duties as well, after the expiration of one (1) year, from the date of the final payment of duties, in the absence of fraud or protest or compliance audit pursuant to the provisions of this Code, be final and conclusive upon all parties, unless the liquidation of the import entry was merely tentative.”

The December 2016 ruling reversed and set aside the May 13, 2010 decision of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) that directed the oil firm to pay the said amount plus an additional legal interest of six percent per annum on the total dutiable value.

The Court noted that PSPC filed its Import Entry and Internal Revenue Declaration (IEIRD) and paid the remaining customs duties for the shipment on May 23, 1996.

However, it was only on August 2000 or more than four years when Pilipinas Shell received a demand letter from the District Collector of Batangas for the alleged unpaid duties covering the shipment.

Thereafter, on Oct. 29, 2001, or after more than five years, the oil company received another demand letter from respondent seeking to collect for the entire dutiable value of the same shipment amounting to PHP936,899,855.90.

“Any action or claim questioning the propriety of the entry and settlement of duties pertaining to such shipment made beyond the one-year prescriptive period from the date of payment of final duties, is barred by prescription,” the Court ruled.

The High Court noted that BOC’s motion was anchored primarily on the alleged applicability of Chevron Philippines, Inc. v. Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs (Chevron) to its case.

However, the Court said the Chevron case cannot be applied to Pilipinas Shell’s case considering that the facts and circumstances pertaining to the two cases were not the same.

In Chevron, according to the Court, the evidence on record established that the oil company committed fraud in its dealings.

“On the other hand, proof that petitioner Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation was just as guilty was clearly wanting. Simply, there was no finding of fraud on the part of petitioner in the case at bar. Such circumstance is too significant that it renders Chevron indubitably different from and cannot, therefore, serve as the jurisprudential foundation of the case at bar,” the SC said.

The SC held that the BOC failed to present evidence to back its claim that PSPC acted in a fraudulent manner. (Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan/PNA)

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