Commissioner vs. Makasiar, 177 SCRA 27 (1989) G.R. No. 79307, August 29, 1989

Fact: On 7 December 1978, the then Court of First Instance of Manila issued Search and Seizure Warrants against Howard J. Sosis,, et al.,” for violation of Republic Act No. 3720 and violation of Article 188 of the Revised Penal Code (captioned as “Substituting and altering trademarks, tradenames, or service marks”), respectively, and ordering the seizure of Materials and Documents. On 8 December 1978, the Bureau of Customs, et al., seized and confiscated the following articles, found in the premises of the Hercules Bottling Co., Inc. at Isla de Provisor, Paco, Manila. On 2 January 1979, the Collector of Customs for the Port of Manila, after being informed of the seizure of the subject goods and upon verification that the same were imported contrary to law, issued a warrant of seizure and detention, ordered the immediate seizure and turnover of the seized items to its Auction and Cargo Disposal Division at the Port of Manila. The private respondent objected to the continuation by the Collector of Customs of the seizure proceedings claiming, among others, that these proceedings would hamper or even jeopardize the preliminary investigation being conducted by the fiscal which was ignored by the Collector of Customs. In order to stop and enjoin the Hearing Officer of the Bureau of Customs from taking further action in the seizure, private respondent filed a petition for prohibition with preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order. Respondent judge issued a temporary restraining order on 29 September 1982. Subsequently, a writ for preliminary injunction was issued as well. Petitioner seeks the reversal of respondent judge’s decision in regards to the excess of his jurisdiction in the disputed Warrant of Seizure and Detention dated January 2, 1979, in Seizure of the Bureau of Customs which the petitioner is ordered to REFRAIN and DESIST from conducting any proceedings for the seizure and forfeiture of the articles in question until after the Respondent Court having taken cognizance and legal custody and has rendered its final judgment in the criminal cases.

 

Issue: whether respondent judge may enjoin the Collector of Customs from continuing with its seizure and forfeiture proceedings over goods seized?

Held: No, the respondent-judge has failed to adhere to the prevailing rule which denies him jurisdiction to enjoin the Bureau of Customs from taking further action in the seizure and forfeiture proceedings over the subject goods. The Collector of Customs sitting in seizure and forfeiture proceedings has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all questions touching on the seizure and forfeiture of dutiable goods. The regional trial courts are precluded from assuming cognizance over such matters even through petitions of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus. Even if it be assumed that a taint of irregularity may be imputed to the exercise by the Collector of Customs of his jurisdiction to institute seizure and forfeiture proceedings over the subject goods because he had accepted custody of the same under conditions, it would not mean that respondent judge was correspondingly vested with the jurisdiction to interfere with such proceedings. It bears repeating that law and settled jurisprudence clearly deprive the regional trial courts of jurisdiction to enjoin the Collector of Customs from exercising his exclusive authority to order seizure and forfeiture proceedings over imported goods.

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