Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC denies Universal Robina’s petition challenging provision on profiteering

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SC denies Universal Robina’s petition challenging provision on profiteering
Supreme Court dismisses Universal Robina Corporation's petition challenging the constitutionality of a provision prohibiting profiteering under the Price Act

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed Universal Robina Corporation’s (URC) petition for review challenging the constitutionality of the provision prohibiting profiteering under the Price Act.

In a 25-page decision released on Friday, November 17, but promulgated last February 14, the SC said the URC “failed to show the invalidity of the laws and executive issuances it assails, and for being premature.”

In 2012, URC filed a petition for declaratory relief before the Regional Trial Court praying that the provision in the Price Act prohibiting profiteering be declared as invalid. This was denied, which prompted URC to seek the SC’s help in reviewing the decision by filing a petition for certiorari.

The Gokongwei-led food and beverage company argued in their petition for declaratory relief that the definition of profiteering is void for vagueness and violates the constitutional right of an accused to be informed of the nature and cause of an accusation against them. 

Under the law, profiteering is defined as “the sale or offering for sale of any basic necessity or prime commodity at a price grossly in excess of its true worth.”

The SC was unconvinced by URC’s assertion that the provision was vague. The High Court said the petitioner failed to show that law enforcers “have unbridled discretion to determine that profiteering has been committed. Neither has it established that it did not have fair notice of the conduct to be avoided.”

The SC said the petition for declaratory relief is not the proper remedy to challenge the specific provision of the Price Act.

What happened before?

The legal battle started after Victorio Mario Dimagiba, then director of the Bureau of Trade and Regulation and Consumer Protection, filed profiteering charges against URC and other local flour millers in 2010.

Dimagiba had asked the companies involved why their ex-mill flour prices did not reduce despite decrease in cost factors. In response, the URC would file the petition for declaratory relief, which would be denied on grounds of lack of justiciable controversy and that it was prematurely filed. –

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