Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cagayan car imports declared illegal

THE Senate has asked Customs to immediately stop the entry of used cars in Port Irene in Cagayan in line with a recent ruling by the Office of the Solicitor General.

The legal opinion, issued Sept. 22, says the Cagayan Special Economic Zone, of which Port Irene is a part, is covered by the prohibition on the importation of used motor vehicles, according to Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the committee on ways and means.

In a 2006 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of Executive Order 156, which prohibits the importation of used motor vehicles through any port, including free ports, other than the Subic Freeport and Special Economic Zone.

But Cagayan officials backed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile have maintained that Port Irene is exempt from the prohibition. They claim that all taxes, duties and fees required under the law are paid by importers, and those generate revenues for the government.

In several committee hearings, Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said they had been allowing the entry of used vehicles into Port Irene pending a resolution of the issue by the Finance Department and the Office of the Solicitor General.

In her opinion, Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera resolved the issue by invoking the principle of stare decisis, which means that a conclusion reached in one case should be applied to those that follow if the facts are substantially the same, even though the parties may be different.

“With the Solicitor General’s final legal opinion, the Bureau of Customs cannot anymore hide under the cloak of pending legal matter. It is clear as daylight that this matter is already resolved and the committee expects the full implementation of such,” Escudero said.

He ordered Morales to submit a report on the bureau’s compliance with the ruling on or before Oct. 7.

Escudero said the solicitor-general’s ruling settled the issue once and for all by declaring Port Irene to be covered by the import ban.

“Where the law does not distinguish, we should not distinguish,” he said.

Newsmen were unable to reach Enrile for comment. Fel V. Maragay - Manila Standard Today

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