You are on page 1of 2

EL GRECO SHIP MANNING AND MANAGEMENT CORPORATION vs.

COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS
G.R. No. 177188
December 4, 2008
DOCTRINE: In administrative proceedings, such as those before the BOC, technical rules of procedure and evidence are
not strictly applied and administrative due process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense.

Facts:

A Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court was filed by the petitioner El Greco asking
for reversal of the decision of CTA en banc affirming the decision of CTA ordering the forfeiture of the vessel M/V Criston
(M/V Neptune Breeze), for having been involved in smuggling 35,000 bags of imported rice.

The vessel M/V Criston, operated by Glucer Shipping Cimoany, was docked at Port of Tabaco, Albay consigned to Antonio
Chua and Carlos Carillo.

Commissioner Titus Villanueva of Bureau of Customs, upon his directive, issued a Warrant and Seizure and Detention by
the Legaspi District Collector for the 35,000 bags of imported rice carried by M/V Criston, on the ground that it left the
Port of Manila without the necessary clearance from the Philippine Coast Guard. Since the warrant only covered the cargo,
but not the vessel which transported it, a subsequent Warrant of Seizure and Detention was then issued including the
[articular vessel.

Chua and Carillo then filed to RTC a Petition for Prohibition with prayer for the issuance of Preliminary Injunction and TPO
assailing the authority of Legaspi District Collectors to issue the Warrant. Since the petition is sufficient in form and in
substance, the RTC issued a 72-hour TRO conditioned upon filing of Carillo and Chua a bond amounting to P 31,450,000.
After giving the ond, the rice were released to them.

While M/V Criston was berthing at the Port of Tabaco, the Province was hit by typhoon. To save fro any damage caused
by the typhoon, the vessel was allwed to have another anchorage area for temporary shelter, however, after the typhoon
the vessel failed to return to the Port of Tabaco.

BOC, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Air force looked for the missing vessel, alter was found in the waters of
Bataan sporting the name of M/V Neptune Breeze. For failure of Neptune Breeze to present proper clearance, another
Warrant of Seizure and Detention was issued against it. Also, ordering the forfeiture of the M/V Criston, also known as
M/V Neptune Breeze, and its cargo, for violating Section 2530 (a), (f) and (k) of the Tariff and Customs Code.

El Greco, an authorized local agent of the registered owner of M/V Neptune Breeze, Atlantic Pacific Corporation, filed a
Motion for Intervention and Motion to Quash the warrant with urgent prayer for the release of the vessel. El Greco
claimed that M/V Neptune Breeze was a foreign registered vessel owned by Atlantic Pacific, and different from M/V
Criston which had been involved in smuggling activities in Legaspi, Albay.

The Manila District Collector issued an order quashing the Warrant and release of the vessel for lack of probable cause
that the vessel was the same one known as M/V Criston.

However, upon automatic review of BOC Commissioner it reversed the prior decision and found that M/V Neptune Breeze
and M/V Criston were one and the same, as shown in the document retrieved by the elements of the Pilippine Coast
Guard from M/V Criston during search conducted on board that the name of the vessel MV "NEPTUNE BREEZE," the name
of the master of the vessel a certain YUSHAWU AWUDU, etc. These facts were corroborated by the footage of ABS-CBN
taken on board the vessel when the same was subjected to search.
A Petition for Review was then filed by El Greco to CTA averring that the Commissioner committed grave abuse of
discretion. CTA sustained the decision of BOC Commissioner, upon referring to the crime laboratory report submitted by
the Philippine National Police (PNP) stating that the serial numbers of the engines and the generators of both M/V Criston
and M/V Neptune Breeze were identical, the CTA Second Division concluded that both vessels were indeed one and the
same vessel. Hence this petition.

Issue: 1. WON M/V Criston and M/V Neptune Breeze are the same vessel.
2. WON the forfeiture is valid.

Ruling:
1. Well-entrenched is the rule that findings of facts of the CTA are binding on this Court and can only be disturbed on
appeal if not supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is that amount of relevant evidence which a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.

Based on the records of the case, there ia an overwhelming and utterly significant pieces of evidence that more than
meets the quantum of evidence necessary to establish that both vessels are the same.

Evidences:
- The crime laboratory report of the PNP shows that the serial numbers of the engines and generators of the two
vessels are identical and El Greco failed to rebut this evidence. A judicial notice was taken along with the gross
tonnage, length and breadth of the vessel, the serial numbers of the engine and generator, the unique motor and
chassis number, are the same.
- Also, the documents submitted were spurious, as M/V Criston was not registered with the Marina.
- Customs Guard Adolfo Capistrano testified that the features of both vessels were similar.
- The total no-show at the hearings despite being sent with several notices becomes highl unfathomable dor an
owner to just ignore the proceedings for the seizure of the properties.

We cannot give much credence to the self-serving denial by El Greco that M/V Neptune Breeze is not the same as M/V
Criston in light of the substantial evidence on record to the contrary. Neither can we permit El Greco to evade the
forfeiture of its vessel, as a consequence of its being used in smuggling activities, by decrying denial of due process.

In administrative proceedings, such as those before the BOC, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly
applied and administrative due process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense. The essence
of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or, as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain
one's side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling complained.

The evidence of El Greco failed to persuade that the vessel is not the same with M/V Criston. The only vital evidence
presented by El Greco was he foreign registration of M/V Neptune Breeze, even when taken into consideration and
weighed against each other, the evidence cannot refute the substantial evidence indicating that both vessels are the
same.

2. In violation of Section 2530 of the Tariff and Customs Code, that “any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, cargo, articles
and other obejects be used unlawfully in the importation or exportation of … contabands or smuggled
articles, be subjected to forfeiture”.

There is no question that M/V Neptune Breeze, then known as M/V Criston, was carrying 35,000 bags of imported rice
without the necessary papers showing that they were entered lawfully through a Philippine port after the payment of
appropriate taxes and duties thereon. This gives rise to the presumption that such importation was illegal. Consequently,
the rice subject of the importation, as well as the vessel M/V Neptune Breeze used in importation are subject to forfeiture.
The burden is on El Greco, as the owner of M/V Neptune Breeze, to show that its conveyance of the rice was actually
legal.

In the Incoming Journal of the Philippine Coast Guard, Certification issued by the Department of Transportation and
Communications (DOTC) Port State Control Center of Manila, there was no such loading of rice or calling of vessel
occurring at North Harbor, Manila. It is, therefore, uncontroverted that the 35,000 bags of imported rice were smuggled
into the Philippines using M/V Neptune Breeze. This was not refuted by El Greco.

Thus, we strongly condemn the ploy used by M/V Neptune Breeze, assuming a different identity to smuggle goods into
the country in a brazen attempt to defraud the government and the Filipino public and deprive them of much needed
monetary resources.