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SC: Signing of goods declaration not exclusive to customs brokers

The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of a section of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which states that the signing of goods declarations is not exclusive to customs brokers.

In a decision, the SC Second Division denied the petition for certiorari filed by the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) that questioned the ruling of the Court of Appeals and a regional trial court that denied its petition for declaratory relief.

In its petition for declaratory relief, the CCBI asked that Section 27 of the Customs Brokers Act of 2004 remain in full effect despite the passage of Section 106(d) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, or for Section 106(d) to be declared unconstitutional for being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution.

“Prefatorily, the Court notes that the petition was filed out of time. As can be gleaned from the records, the petitioner received a copy of the CA resolution on June 10, 2021, denying its motion for reconsideration… petitioner had fifteen days, or until July 13, 2021, within which to file the petition,” it said.

“…petitioner filed a motion for an extension of time to file the petition and paid the corresponding docket fee. The Court granted the motion and gave the petitioner 30 days from June 13, 2021, to file the petition, or until August 12, 2021. However, the petitioner filed the instant petition only on August 27, 2021,” it added.

Aside from this, the Court said that the CCBI’s petition should be denied due to a lack of merit.

According to the Court, Section 27 of the Customs Brokers Act had already been repealed. 

“As correctly pointed out by the CA, RA 9280 was amended by RA 9853. The latter explicitly states that the export declaration shall be signed by the exporter or, at their option, delegate the signing and processing of the document to their designated customs broker or authorized representative,” it said.

“Hence, even before the enactment of RA 10863, the law in question, the exporter on their own can already sign the goods declaration even without the assistance of a customs broker,” it added.

The Court also stressed that the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act does not violate the equal protection clause, which states that “no person or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances."

“At this juncture, the Court reiterates the well-settled rule that when the due process and equal protection clauses are invoked, considering that they are not fixed rules but rather broad standards, there is a need for proof of such persuasive character as would lead to such a conclusion. Absent such a showing, the presumption of validity must prevail,” it said.

“Here, no concrete evidence and convincing arguments were presented by the petitioner to warrant a declaration of the unconstitutionality of RA I0863,” it added. — VBL, GMA Integrated News