Home » Customs & Trade » Shell questioned on ‘defense’ of judge

THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) is wondering why the counsel of Pilipinas Shell has come to the defense of Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) presiding Justice Ernesto Acosta, who is hearing the oil company’s case involving P7.34 billion in unpaid taxes for unleaded gas imports from 2004 to 2009.

Last week, Pilipinas Shell said it was moving to have Narciso Santiago Jr, presidential assistant on revenue enhancement, and BOC officials declared in contempt for violating a CTA order barring BOC and Shell officials from discussing the case in the media.

BOC officials and Santiago had held a press conference to announce plans to file a motion seeking Acosta’s inhibition from the case. The magistrate was employed by Shell from 1975 to 1981 as fiscal services assistant, information which he did not disclose.

“The question of whether or not Justice Acosta should inhibit himself from the case is directed at him, not Shell. It is Justice Acosta who should address the question. Why is Shell defending him?” Customs commissioner Napoleon Morales said in a statement last week.

Shell counsel John Balisnomo said the BOC has no cause for Acosta’s disqualification from the case since his relationship with Shell ended almost 30 years ago. Citing Supreme Court rules, Balisnomo said even justices of the high tribunal were not required to inhibit in cases where a relationship with litigants had been terminated for at least 10 years.

But Morales said that to a reasonable observer, Shell’s coming to Acosta’s defense shows the ties between Shell and Acosta.

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