Manila court OKs Customs revamp, finally
MANILA -- The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila has given the go-signal for the transfer of all 27 Customs collectors to the Customs Policy Research Office (CPRO) under the Department of Finance (DOF) as part of the ongoing reform being instituted in the bureau.
Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon confirmed that Presiding Judge Felicitas Laron-Cacanindin of RTC Branch 17 in Manila on Monday denied the petition for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction filed by 13 of the 27 Customs collectors seeking to order him not to implement Customs Personnel Order (CPO) B-189-2013 detailing them to the CPRO.
“We welcome the decision of RTC Branch 17 in Manila in denying the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against the CPO assigning 27 collectors to the Customs Policy Research Office,” Biazon said.
“While this issue may have caused a temporary setback in the reform efforts of the DOF and the BOC [Bureau of Customs], it has also shown that the initiatives can withstand legal challenges,” Biazon added.
“The court cannot enjoin an agency from performing an act within its prerogative, except when in the exercise of its authority it gravely abused or exceeded jurisdiction,” Laron-Cacanindin said.
With the trial court’s ruling, Biazon said he hoped that the Customs collectors involved in the case would now comply with the CPO and cooperate in the reforms being undertaken by the leadership.
Earlier, Biazon denied the claim of the 13 collectors that the CPO was illegal as it would result in their demotion and would eventually place them in floating status.
It is not a demotion, said Biazon, because they were elevated to the DOF.
Of the 27 collectors covered by the CPO, only 15 questioned it before the court; the others complied and have reported to the CPRO.
The petitioners were Collectors Ronnie Silvestre, Edward de la Cuesta, Rogel Gatchalian, Imelda Cruz, Lilibeth Sandag, Raymond Ventura, Ma. Liza Torres, Arnel Alcaraz, Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang, Francis Agustin Erpe, Carlos So, Marietta Zamoranos, Carmelita Talus, Arifeles Carreon and Romalino Valdez. But Cruz subsequently resigned from her post while Talusan withdrew her name from the petition and decided to report to CPRO.
The RTC in Manila earlier issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the implementation of the CPO.
The court held that the collectors covered by the CPO managed to show a “prima facie case” for the court to believe that the transfer order is illegal. The trial court said the reassignment of the petitions to the CPRO was made when the election ban on movement of government personnel was “hovering.”
It also questioned the reason for the abrupt creation of the CPRO and the blanket reassignment of the petitioners to the office, which has yet to exist. In their petition, the collectors said the CPO was issued prematurely and in haste because Executive Order 140, which created the CPRO, was only signed on September 2.
They claimed that the detail order in the CPO violated their statutory and constitutional right to security of tenure as the reassignment would reduce their present positions to mere researchers in the newly created research office. They noted that the CPO detailed them to the CPRO in the DOF without specific mention as to what positions, title, rank and definite period of effectivity.