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Biz groups slam CA in smuggling case

MANILA, Philippines - Two influential business groups slammed the recent decision of the Court of Appeals to intervene in the smuggling case the government has filed against Phoenix Petroleum and the oil retailer's officials.

In separate statements, the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) expressed support to the anti-smuggling campaign of the government, including the filing of cases against wrongdoers.

FPI said the appellate court's recent order favoring Phoenix based on "legal technicalities" will just "embolden unscrupulous unscrupulous importers and brokers to just use the remedy of obtaining court orders to delay the immediate hearing or trial of cases filed by government prosecutors."

"This is setting a bad precedent. We all know that smuggling is one of the major causes of revenue leakages as it is robbing the government of some P150 billion in taxes annually. Now that we have an Executive branch that is very serious in its campaign against technical smuggling, here now comes a TRO (temporary restraining order)issued by an appellate court getting in the way and preventing the case from being immediately heard on the merits," FPI chairman Jesus L. Arranza said in a statement on May 22.

He added that if Phoenix Petroleum feels that its right is being sidestepped, the best venue to prove its case is in the court during trial itself.

The MBC, on the other hand, said that that "these efforts to stop smuggling are being impeded by the Courts’ issuances of TROs and injunctions, motions for reconsideration, inhibitions, postponements and extensions of time, without legal or factual basis."

"These subvert the Aquino government’s goal to create a globally competitive and business-friendly climate in the Philippines," the MBC said in a May 24 statement.

"Smuggling cannot be done without connivance with a government official or employee. The implication is clear—where there is smuggling, there is corruption," it added.

President Benigno Aquino has previously said smuggling of oil, rice and other products cost the government up to P30 billion a year in lost revenues.

The Aquino government, through the Bureau of Customs and the departments of justice and finance, have accused Phoenix of failing to file proper documents for its oil imports and conspiring with BOC officials to avoid paying proper taxes.

In a disclosure to the PSE on April 30, Phoenix dismissed the case against its president, Dennis Ang Uy, as "false and unsubstantiated allegations"

"These unsubstantiated charges are particularly troubling to us as Phoenix has been regularly honored as one of the Philippines' highest taxpayers by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Philippines' highest taxpayers by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) themselves," it said. - Rappler.com