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[ CUSTOMS MEMORANDUM ORDER NO. 04-2018, March 26, 2018 ]


Adopted: 22 March 2018
Date Filed: 26 March 2018

Section  1.  Scope  and  Coverage.  This  CMO  prescribes  the  guidelines  and detailed procedures governing forfeiture proceedings in the Bureau of Customs pursuant to Section 204 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Section 2. Objectives.
2.1 To  provide  just,  fair  and  expeditious  resolution  of  forfeiture  cases  in  the

2.2 To ensure uniformity and consistency in the application of customs policies, rules and regulations in forfeiture proceedings.

2.3 To introduce innovations and best practices consistent with the law.
Section 3. General Provisions.
3.1 The  Bureau  shall  exercise  exclusive  original  jurisdiction  over  all forfeiture cases under the CMTA.

3.2 The venue shall be at the Law Division of the Collection District which issued the Warrant of Seizure and Detention (WSD). For Collection Districts without Law Divisions, the venue shall be at the Office of the District Collector. Upon motion, the venue may be held at the Legal Service, Revenue Collection Monitoring Group (RCMG).

3.3 These  Rules shall be liberally  construed  to carry out the objectives  of the
CMTA and other relevant legislations.

3.4 Any interlocutory order or referral to other offices shall toll the running of the reglementary period.

3.5 If  the  subject  shipment  involves  prohibited  or  restricted  goods,  the  same shall be ipso facto be forfeited in favor of the government.
3.6 Days as used in this CMO shall refer to working days.

3.7 The   Bureau   shall,   in   accordance   with   international   standards,   utilize information and communications technology in managing the recordation of cases and the dissemination and utilization of resolutions or decisions in forfeiture cases.
Section 4. Pleadings, Notices and Appearances.
4.1   All pleadings shall be filed personally, by private courier service, or electronically[1]  with the appropriate Law Division or Office of the District Collector. Soft copies of pleadings shall also be submitted simultaneously either by electronic mail or in an external drive.

4.2     In the event that the pleadings are sent through private courier service, the date of sending shall be considered as the date of filing.

4.3     Pleadings filed beyond the reglementary period shall not be considered.

4.4     Where  WSDs  are  issued  by  the  District  Collector  involving  the  same consignee, commodity and violation, these cases may be consolidated. In case where two (2) hearing officers are assigned, the same shall be consolidated with the lower/lowest docket number.

4.5    A lawyer appearing in any forfeiture case shall be duly authorized by the claimant.  All pleadings  and motions submitted  by a lawyer appearing  for the claimant shall indicate his/her office address, electronic mail address, Attorney’s  Roll Number,  updated  Integrated  Bar of the Philippines  (lBP) and Professional Tax Receipt (PTR) Numbers and Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) compliance.

4.6     In case the claimant is a juridical entity, it may also authorize a responsible officer of the company to appear on its behalf.

4.7     For  individual  claimants  or  where  the  goods  are  of  small  value,  the licensed customs brokers or authorized representative may be allowed to represent for and on its behalf.

4.8     An   attorney-in-fact   appearing   in   any   forfeiture   case   must   be   duly authorized  by  the  claimant.  Authorization  issued  by  claimant  currently abroad must be duly authenticated by the appropriate Consular Office.

4.9     Failure  of  the  party  appearing   without  proper  authorization   from  the claimant for two (2) successive hearings shall result to the presentation of the evidence ex parte by the Government Prosecutor.

4.10   Counsel  or  other  authorized  representatives  shall  have  the  authority  to bind their clients or principals in all matters of procedure including but not limited to entering into offer of settlement by fine or redemption.

4.11   Any change or withdrawal of counsel or authorized representative shall be made in accordance with the Rules of Court.

4.12   Notice of Hearing shall be served by personal service or, if not practicable by reason of distance and lack of personnel to effect personal service, by private courier service or electronic mail. Proof of such service shall be attached to the record of the case.
Section 5. Designation of Hearing Officer and Prosecutor.
5.1 Within  twenty  four  (24)  hours  from  issuance  of  the  WSD,  the  District Collector shall endorse the same to the Law Division for the assignment of a Hearing Officer.

5.2 For Collection  Districts without a Law Division, the District Collector,  within twenty four (24) hours from issuance of the WSD, shall designate any lawyer assigned to the Collection District as a Hearing Officer. If there is no lawyer assigned in the Collection District, the District Collector shall request for a Hearing Officer from the Prosecution and Litigation Division (PLD), Legal Service.[2]  within forty-eight (48) hours from the issuance of the WSD.

5.3 In all cases,  the District  Collector  shall  request  a Government  Prosecutor
from the PLD, Legal Service  within forty-eight  (48) hours from issuance  of the WSD.
Section 6. Preliminary Conference
6.1 The Hearing Officer shall within fifteen (15) days or five (5) days in case of perishable goods, from the issuance of the WSD, conduct a Preliminary Conference. All parties including the claimant or its duly authorized representative,   apprehending   or   alerting   unit,   customs   examiners,   or customs officer concerned and Government Prosecutor shall be duly notified of the scheduled date.

6.2 The Preliminary Conference shall discuss the following:

6.2.1  Defining and simplifying the issues of the case;

6.2.2  Entering into admission or stipulation of facts;

6.2.3  Marking of exhibits;

6.2.4  The possibility  of disposition  of goods pending forfeiture proceedings in case of perishable articles; and

6.2.5  The possibility of settlement by fine.

6.3 The Preliminary  Conference  shall be completed  in one (1) day. Failure  of either party to appear for two (2) consecutive hearing dates shall, through a Position Paper, cause the presentation of evidence ex parte.
Section 7. Hearing Proper.
7.1 The Hearing Officer shall require the claimant to submit its verified Position Paper, within five (5) days after the Preliminary Conference, copy furnished the Government Prosecutor.

7.2 Within five (5) days from receipt of the Position Paper, the Government Prosecutor shall file its Comment, copy furnished the claimant. The claimant may file its verified Reply within three (3) days from receipt thereof, copy furnished the Government  Prosecutor. After submission of the last pleading or clarificatory hearing as provided for under Section 7.3 hereof, the case will be submitted for resolution.

7.3 The Hearing Officer may call and set two (2) clarificatory hearings after submission of the last pleading, for the proper resolution of the case.

7.4 The District  Collector  shall render  a decision  within 30 (thirty)  days or ten
(10) days in case of perishable goods, upon issuance of an Order submitting the case for resolution.
Section 8. Prohibited Pleadings and Motions. The following pleadings and motions shall not be allowed and acted upon by the Law Division or Office of the District Collector:
8.1 Motion for Postponement - A motion for postponement is prohibited, except if it is based on acts of God and force majeure.

8.2 Motion for Reconsideration

8.3 Motion for Extension of Time to File Pleadings

8.4 Motion  to  Quash/Recall/Lift/Set-aside  or  any  other  similar  motion,  except when the WSD was issued pursuant to the following:
8.4.1  In case of goods seized pursuant to the power of the Commissioner to inspect and visit[3],  the claimant  was able to prove payment  of duties and taxes as evidenced by authentic documents and the release of the goods will not be contrary to law;

8.4.2  In case of goods seized pursuant to the power of the Commissioner to
inspect and visit[4],  the claimant was able to prove that the goods are not of foreign  origin  or the goods  are manufactured  locally  and  the release of the goods will not be contrary to law;

8.4.3  The  District  Collector  issuing  the  WSD  has  no  territorial  jurisdiction over the seized qoods[5], without prejudice to the issuance of the WSD by the District Collector having territorial jurisdiction thereof;

8.4.4  When the concerned regulatory agency, in cases of regulated goods, has issued the necessary clearances or licenses in accordance with its governing laws and regulations; and

8.4.5  Other analogous  circumstances  as determined  by the Commissioner and specified under a corresponding Customs Memorandum Order.

8.5 Motion to Suspend/Hold in Abeyance Forfeiture Proceedings

8.6 Motion to Reopen
Section 9. Appeal to the Commissioner.
9.1 The aggrieved  importer  or exporter  or any stakeholder  directly  affected  by the adverse  decision  of the District  Collector  may  appeal  the decision  by filing a Notice of Appeal with a corresponding Memorandum on Appeal within fifteen (15) days or five (5) days in case of perishable goods, from receipt thereof.

9.2 Upon receipt of the Notice of Appeal and Memorandum on Appeal with proof of   payment   of   the   requisite   appeal   fee,   the   District   Collector   shall immediately  transmit  all  the  records  of  the  proceedings  to  the  Appellate Division, Legal Service within five (5) days, from the receipt of the appeal. A soft copy of the decision shall also be sent to the Appellate Division, Legal Service via electronic mail at

9.3 The  Chief,  Appellate   Division   shall  immediately   assign  the  case  to  a Reviewing Officer who shall have ten (10) days or five (5) days in case of perishable goods, to submit a recommendation.  Such recommendation  shall immediately  be transmitted  for review  of the Director,  Legal Service  which shall  have  ten (10)  days  or five (5) days  in case  of perishable  goods,  to transmit his recommendation to the Deputy Commissioner, RCMG. The latter shall in turn transmit his recommendation to the Commissioner within five (5) days or three (3) days in case of perishable goods, from receipt of the recommendation from the Director, Legal Service.

9.4 The Commissioner shall decide on the appeal within five (5) days, or two (2) days in the case of perishable goods, from receipt of the records from the RCMG: Provided, that the period to resolve shall not run until the complete records of the case is received by the Office of the Commissioner.

9.5 An appeal filed beyond the prescribed period or an appeal filed without the payment of the required appeal fee or payment of the appeal fee beyond the period to file an appeal shall be dismissed.

9.6 The filing of the Notice of Appeal without the corresponding Memorandum on

Appeal shall likewise be dismissed.
Section 10. Automatic Review.
10.1  The Commissioner shall automatically review any decision by the District Collector  adverse  to the government.  The District  Collector  shall elevate the entire records of the case to the Appellate Division within five (5) days from the issuance of the decision. A soft copy of the decision shall also be sent to the Appellate Division, Legal Service via electronic mail at

10.2   The  Chief,  Appellate  Division  shall  immediately  assign  the  case  to  a Reviewing Officer who shall have ten (10) days or three (3) days in case of perishable  goods,  to  submit  a  recommendation.  Such  recommendation shall immediately be transmitted for review of the Director, Legal Service which  shall  have  ten  (10)  days  or three  (3) days  in case  of perishable goods,  to  transmit  his  recommendation   to  the  Deputy  Commissioner, RCMG. The latter shall in turn transmit his recommendation to the Commissioner  within five (5) days or two (2) days in case of perishable goods,  from  receipt  of  the  recommendation   from  the  Director,  Legal Service.

10.3   The Commissioner shall decide on the case within five (5) days or two (2) days  in case  of perishable  goods,  from  receipt  of the  records  from  the RCMG: Provided, that the period to resolve shall not run until the complete records of the case is received by the Office of the Commissioner.

10.4   When  no  decision  is  rendered  within  the  prescribed  period  or  when  a decision adverse to the government is rendered by the Commissioner involving goods with Free on Board (FOB) or Free Carrier (FCA) value of ten million pesos (Php10,000,000.00)  or more, the records of the decision of the Commissioner, or of the District Collector under review, as the case may be, shall be elevated to the Secretary of Finance within five (5) days from  the  lapse  of  the  prescribed  period  to  resolve  or  from  the  date  of issuance of decision, for review by the Secretary of Finance.

10.5   The decision issued by the Secretary of Finance, whether or not a decision was rendered  by the Commissioner  within thirty (30) days, or within ten (10) days in the case of perishable goods, from receipt of the records, shall be final upon the Bureau, subject to appeal to the Court of Tax Appeals.[6]

10.6   The Secretary of Finance shall within thirty (30) days or ten (10) days, for
perishable goods review the decision of the District Collector or the Commissioner, provided that when no decision is rendered within the prescribed  period,  the  Decision  of  the  District  Collector  or  the Commissioner shall be deemed approved.
Section  11.  Repealing  Clause.  This  CMO  repeals  previously  issued  CMOs which are inconsistent with the provisions here stated.

Section 12. Separability  Clause. If any part of this CMO is declared unconstitutional  or contrary  to existing  laws,  other  parts  not so declared  shall remain in full force or effect.

Section  13. Effectivity.  This CMO shall take effect immediately  and shall last until revoked.


[1] Subject to the issuance of Internal Rules and Regulations on Electronic Filing

[2] Executive Order No. 724

[3] cf. CMTA, Title 1I, Chapter 3, Section 224

[4] cf. CMTA, Title 1I, Chapter 3, Section 224

[5] cf. The Rules of Court of The Philippines, Rule 117, Section 3 (b)

[6] cf. Section 7 RA 9282.
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