THE Supreme Court has junked the petition filed by the Chamber of Customs Brokers Inc. (CCBI) seeking to declare as unconstitutional a provision in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which limits the powers of customs brokers.
In a 13-page decision, the Court’s Second Division affirmed the ruling issued by the Court of Appeals (CA), which upheld the resolution issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila on April 5, 2019, dismissing the petition for declaratory relief filed by CCBI.
The CCBI, a national organization of customs brokers recognized by the Professional Regulation Commission as an accredited professional organization, filed a petition for declaratory relief before the Manila RTC, pleading, among others, that Section 27 of Republic Act (RA) 9280 or the Customs Brokers Act of 2004 should remain in full effect despite the passage of Section 106 (d) of RA 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act or that the latter be struck down as unconstitutional for being in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
Section 27 of RA 9280 states: “Any single act or transaction embraced within the provision of Section 6 hereof shall constitute an act of engaging the practice of customs broker profession. Import and export entity declarations shall be signed only by customs broker under oath based on the covering documents submitted by the importers.”
On the other hand, Section 106 of R.A. 10863 regulates the practice of customs brokerage profession.
The said provision states: “A declarant may be a consignee or a person who has the right to dispose of the goods. The declarant shall lodge a goods declaration with the Bureau and may be…a person duly empowered to act as agent or attorney-in-fact for each holder.
The petitioner contended that Section 106 (d) of RA 10863 did not repeal or amend RA 9280, as there were no irreconcilable inconsistencies between them.
Being so, CCBI argued that the provisions of the latter law should be harmonized and read in conjunction with the provisions of the former law.
The petitioner further said that “allowing any person designated as an agent or attorney-in-fact of the importer or exporter to perform acts that would otherwise be limited only for licensed customs brokers created undue favor and inequality.”
The respondent Bureau of Customs, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), however, insisted that Section 106 has modified Section 27 of RA 9280 in relation to Section l07 of RA 10863.
Thus, the new law authorized the importer, exporter, as well as their appointed agent or attorney-in-fact, to lodge a goods declaration independently and without the participation of a customs broker.
The BOC further pointed out that RA 10863 contains a repealing provision, i.e., Section 1803 thereof, which reads in part: “[a]ll other laws, acts, presidential decrees, executive orders, rules and regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby expressly repealed, amended or modified accordingly.”
Furthermore, the BOC also pointed out that even before the passage of RA 10863, Section 27 of RA 9280 had already been amended by Section 1 of RA 9853 such that import declarations shall be signed by both a customs broker and the consignee/owner/importer, while export declarations are to be signed by the exporter, or, at his option, a customs broker or authorized representative.
In denying CCBI’s petition seeking the reversal of the trial court and the CA’s rulings, which favor the BOC, the SC did not give credence to the claim that Section 106 (d) of RA 10863 violate the equal protection clause under the Constitution.
“As regards petitioner’s contention that Section I06 [d] of RA I0863 violates the equal protection clause, suffice it to say that the CA correctly ruled that petitioner failed to substantiate such contention,” the SC declared.