The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) is seeking the implementation of a 2014 Supreme Court (SC) decision, which it said effectively removed the two-tier accreditation requirement for customs brokers to transact with the Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC).
In a letter to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III dated June 30 and received on July 4, CCBI wants the July 8, 2014 decision by the SC concerning G.R. No. 183664 case implemented. This pertains to the case Airlift Asia Customs Brokerage, Inc. and Allan G. Benedicto v. Court of Appeals, the Commissioner of BOC, and the Secretary of Finance.
The chamber noted that the high court’s decision disallowed the present two-phase accreditation system implemented by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) through Revenue Memorandum Order (RMO) No. 10-2014 and by the BOC through Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 11-2014.
The two MOs require customs brokers to first secure a BIR-Broker’s Clearance Certificate then an accreditation from the customs bureau before they are allowed to transact with the BOC.
Instead of the current system, CCBI is asking for a memorandum of agreement to be signed by the chamber, the Professional Regulatory Board for Customs Brokers, and BOC “whereby the tracking and monitoring of the activities of our members in the practice of their profession in the BOC, the safety nets to ensure that only customs brokers with good standing from CCBI will be endorsed for registration with the CPRS (Client Profile Registration System).”
What the Supreme Court says
According to the SC decision, the current accreditation system amounts to “a licensing requirement that restricts the practice of profession of customs brokers and is prohibited by RA (Republic Act) 9280, otherwise known as the Customs Brokers Act of 2004.”
The court case stemmed from Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 03-2006 issued by then customs commissioner Napoleon Morales and approved by then finance secretary Margarito Teves. The order provides the rules and regulations for accrediting customs brokers transacting with BOC.
Petitioners Airlift and Benedicto assailed the validity of CAO 03-2006 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), claiming the order was issued without authority, contravened RA 9280, and violated the right of customs brokers to perform their profession.
The RTC upheld the petitioners’ contentions and nullified CAO 03-2006. But the RTC decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals, only to be upheld later by the SC.
According to the SC decision, the accreditation of customs brokers under CAO 03-2006 is a form of licensing requirement and is contrary to the terms of Section 19 of RA 9280, which provides that a customs broker “shall be allowed to practice the profession in any (BOC) collection district without the need for securing another license from the BOC.”
Under RA 9280, a successful examinee of the customs broker examination, upon acquiring a Certificate of Registration, is entitled to practice his or her profession and to enjoy all the benefits and privileges of being a customs broker.
CCBI said that as far as accreditation of customs brokers is concerned, RMO 10-2014 and CMO 11-2014 “are mere reiteration of CAO 03-2006, worse, with an additional requirement of first securing broker’s clearance certificate (BCC) from the BIR.”
A form of licensing
The chamber said that accreditation of customs brokers by sister agencies BIR and BOC is another form or way of licensing that connotes official authorization or approval before customs brokers can practice their profession with BOC. This, CCBI pointed out, is contrary to Section 19 of RA 9280, which “expressly amended the provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code on customs brokers.”
The authority to grant a license to a customs brokers before he or she could practice the profession “solely vests with the PRBCB and to no one else,” CCBI said.
It added that under RA 9280, for a customs broker to practice the profession, he or she is only required to be a holder of a valid Certificate of Registration and Professional Identification Card issued by PRBCB and the Commissioner of the Professional Regulatory Commission.
CCBI also noted that other professionals who also deal with the BOC in the practice of their profession are not required to undergo “this tedious process of accreditation.” It cited lawyers who appear in seizure, smuggling, or protest cases and certified public accountants who appear in cases of customs compliance audit of importers.
“By singling out the customs brokers, [it] would be tantamount to violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” CCBI remarked. – Roumina Pablo
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