763 PHIL. 224
That on or about July 29, 2000, at Port Area, Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously made (sic) an entry of:a) 6,728 yards fabric;
b) 1,937 pcs. assorted bags of Ferragamo, Prada and Polo brands;
c) 3,027 pcs. jeans with Levi's brand;
d) 586 sandals;
e) 312 pairs of rainbow shoes;
f) 120 pairs step-in;
g) 77 pairs of slippers;
h) 24 pcs. of pillows;
i) 36 dozens of shirts with Polo brand;
j) 2 cartons of assorted children's wear;
k) 8 pcs. of folding chairs;
1) 3 cartons of assorted groceries;
m) 120 pcs. of mini-racer toy cars;
n) 4 pcs. of race track;
o) 48 pcs. of gripmate golf set cover:
p) 10 cartons of sampaloc in 6 packs per carton;
q) 40 pcs. raincover folf (sic) bag;
r) 1 carton of wood tray;
s) 240 pcs. golf gloves;
t) 12 pcs. of plastic vase.
by means of false and fraudulent invoice and declaration as regards the true kind, nature, quality and quantity of the goods such that the goods indicated or declared therein were 162 cartons of "personal effects of no commercial value", when in truth and in fact, they were the aforesaid various articles, so as to pay less than the amount legally due to the Government, to its damage and prejudice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds accused ALVIN MERCADO GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime charged and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY to FOUR (4) YEARS, TWO (2) MONTHS of prision correctional as maximum and to pay the costs.
Accordingly, the bond posted for the provisional liberty of the accused is hereby CANCELLED.
It appearing that accused Lito Seña has not been apprehended nor voluntarily surrendered, let warrant be issued for his arrest and the case against him be ARCHIVED to be reinstated upon his apprehension.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED WHEN IT OVERLOOKED THE FACT THAT ACCUSED DID NOT IN ANYWAY WILFULLY, UNLAWFULLY AND FELONIOUSLY MADE (sic) AN ENTRY OF THE SUBJECT IMPORTED ARTICLES BY MEANS OF FALSE AND FRAUDULENT INVOICE AND DECLARATION.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED WHEN IT FOUND THAT ACCUSED IS GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT IN THE ABSENCE OF CONVINCING EVIDENCE.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO EXPRESS CLEARLY AND DISTINCTLY THE FACTS AND THE LAW ON WHICH IT BASED ITS DECISION TO CONVICT ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE CRIME CHARGED.
Noteworthy to stress that "unless it is shown that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight or substance that would otherwise affect the result of the case, its findings will not be disturbed on appeal" and "accorded finality." The rule is not, however, absolute and admit certain exceptions which must be satisfactory established within its ambit in order for it to find application. Contrary to accused-appellant's claim, an extensive perusal of the records do not show the existence of the exceptions in the instant case which, if considered, would have affected the result of the case. Moreover, from the allegations propounded, accused-appellant failed to show persuasive proof relative to the exceptions aforesaid. The appreciation of evidence and assessment of witnesses by public respondent could need not be disturbed on this appeal absent any showing of patent misapprehension or misapplication involving the same. The respondent court, in this case, has not exercised its judgment in despotic or arbitrary manner in the appreciation of the evidence or assessment of the witnesses which would warrant reversal of the appealed decision.
In any event, this court does not subscribe on the argument raised by the accused appellant that nothing is concrete on the findings made by public respondent court to warrant his conviction in view of the foregoing.
Lastly, the assailed decision narrated clearly the chronological incident in arriving at its conclusion and, to reiterate, no more than the assessment of witnesses and evaluation of the evidence adduced and presented wherefrom the assailed decision was based. Hence, the third issue above-noted finds no application in the case at bar.
WHEREFORE, considering the foregoing, the petition is hereby DENIED and the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch No. 21 of Manila in Criminal Case No. 01-196770 for violation of Sec. 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code is hereby AFFIRMED. Accused-appellant, Alvin B. Mercado, is sentenced hereby to suffer the indeterminate penalty of TWO (2) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of prision correctional, as minimum to FOUR (4) YEARS and TWO (2) MONTHS of prision correctional, as maximum and to pay the costs.
WHETHER OR NOT ACCUSED MAY BE HELD GUILTY FOR VIOLATION OF SECTION 3602 IN RELATION TO SECTION 2503 OF THE TARIFF AND CUSTOMS CODE WHEN EVIDENCES PROVE THAT HE DID NOT IN ANY WAY WILFULLY, UNLAWFULLY AND FELONIOUSLY MADE (sic) AN ENTRY OF THE SUBJECT IMPORTED ARTICLES BY MEANS OF FALSE AND FRAUDULENT INVOICE AND DECLARATION AND IN THE ABSENCE OF CRIMINAL INTENT.
WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONER MAY BE HELD GUILTY FOR VIOLATION OF SECTION 3601 OF THE TARIFF AND CUSTOMS CODE NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT HE WAS CHARGED FOR VIOLATION OF SEC. 3602 OF THE TARIFF AND CUSTOMS CODE.
Section 2503. Undervaluation, Misclassification and Misdeclaralion in Entry. - When the dutiable value of the imported articles shall be so declared and entered that the duties, based on the declaration of the importer on the face of the entry, would be less by ten percent (10%) than should be legally collected, or when the imported articles shall be so described and entered that the duties based on the importer's description on the face of the entry would be less by ten percent (10%) than should be legally collected based on the tariff classification, or when the dutiable weight, measurement or quantity of imported articles is found upon examination to exceed by ten percent (10%) or more than the entered weight, measurement or quantity, a surcharge shall be collected from the importer in an amount of not less than the difference between the full duty and the estimated duty based upon the declaration of the importer, nor more than twice of such difference: Provided, That an undervaluation, misdeclaration in weight, measurement or quantity of more than thirty percent (30%) between the value, weight, measurement, or quantity declared in the entry, and the actual value, weight, quantity, or measurement shall constitute a prima facie evidence of fraud penalized under Section 2530 of this Code: Provided, further, That any misdeclared or undeclared imported articles/items found upon examination shall ipso facto be forfeited in favour of the Government to be disposed of pursuant to the provisions of this Code
When the undervaluation, misdescription, misclassification or misdeclaration in the import entry is intentional, the importer shall be subject to the penal provision under Section 3602 of this Code.
Section 3602. Various Fraudulent Practices Against Customs Revenue. - Any person who makes or attempts to make any entry of imported or exported article by means of any false or fraudulent invoice, declaration, affidavit, letter, paper or by any means of any false statement, written or verbal, or by any means of any false or fraudulent practice whatsoever, or knowingly effects any entry of goods, wares or merchandise, at less than true weight or measures thereof or upon a false classification as to quality or value, or by the payment of less than the amount legally due, or knowingly and willfully files any false or fraudulent entry or claim for the payment of drawback or refund of duties upon the exportation of merchandise, or makes or files any affidavit abstract, record, certificate or other document, with a view to securing the payment to himself or others of any drawback, allowance, or refund of duties on the exportation of merchandise, greater than that legally due thereon, or who shall be guilty of any willful act or omission shall, for each offence, be punished in accordance with the penalties prescribed in the preceding section.
- Making or attempting to make any entry of imported or exported article by means of any false or fraudulent invoice, declaration, affidavit, letter, or paper;
- Making or attempting to make any entry of imported or exported article by means of any false statement, written or verbal;
- Making or attempting to make any entry of imported or exported article by means of any false or fraudulent practice whatsoever;
- Knowingly effects any entry of goods, wares or merchandise, at less than true weight or measures thereof;
- Knowingly effects any entry of goods, wares or merchandise upon a false classification as to quality or value;
- Knowingly effects any entry of goods, wares or merchandise by the payment of less than the amount legally due;
- Knowingly and willfully files any false or fraudulent entry or claim for the payment of drawback or refund of duties upon the exportation of merchandise;
- Knowingly and willfully makes or files any affidavit abstract, record, certificate or other document, with a view to securing the payment to himself or others of any drawback, allowance, or refund of duties on the exportation of merchandise, greater than that legally due thereon.
x x x by means of false and fraudulent invoice and declaration as regards the true kind, nature, quality and quantity of the goods such that the goods indicated or declared therein were 162 cartons of "personal effects of no commercial value", when in truth and in fact, they were the aforesaid various articles, so as to pay less than the amount legally due to the Government, to its damage and prejudice. (Emphasis supplied)
As evidence stands, there was really a misdeclaration of the shipment consigned to Aimer Cargo Management covered by Bill of Lading No. NYKS-48150191 and Informal Entry No. 45929. Upon examination of the shipment, the BOC officers discovered that the declaration "as personal effects and of no commercial value" is not accurate. Contrary to the declaration of personal effects, the shipment consisted of general merchandise on commercial quantity such as fabrics, assorted bags of Ferragamo, Prada and Polo, children's wear, shoes, slippers etc. which were brand new and not "used". As the misdeclaration would benefit accused, he is therefore, liable as charged.
Supreme Court ruling is to the effect that under the Tariff and Customs Code, declarations and statements contained in the Import Entry and Permit to Deliver Imported Goods are presumed to be true and correct under the penalties of falsification and perjury. Moreover, descriptions on entries and other documents are admission against interest and presumptively correct. (Caltex (Phil) v. CA et al. G.R. No. 104781, July 10, 1998).
To the mind of the Court the prosecution should not have spared Benita Ochoa (alleged assignee of the shipment) as the real owner of the shipment (par. 2 Deed of Assignment, pp. 18, record) she should have been impleaded as a co-accused. All persons working behind the shipments should have suffered the consequences.
Q As Customs Examiner of the Informal Entry Division since 1991, are you aware of the Customs laws, Customs procedures and practices with respect to the importation under the Informal Entry?
A Yes, Sir.
Q And you are also familiar with the documents require (sic) to be attached to the Formal Entry?
A Yes, Sir.
Q And one of the attachments what you called the commercial invoice, is that correct?
A Yes, Sir.
Q In your experience as Customs Examiner usually this commercial invoice prepared by the exporter or supplier, isn't it?
A Yes, Sir.
Q And this exporter or supplier is usually based in the Country where the goods were manufactured or were bought by the importer, is that right?
A Yes, Sir.
x x x x
Q In your experience as Customs Examiner, usually the description appearing in the bill of lading is also the description appearing in the commercial invoice, is that correct?
A Yes, Sir.
Q In the description of the cargo appearing in the bill of lading is likewise the description appearing in the permit to deliver imported goods, is that correct?
A Yes, Sir.
x x x x
Q xxx Is it not a fact, Mr. Witness, that it is a standard practice at the Bureau of Customs that the description appearing in the permit to deliver imported goods is a general description of the cargo, isn't it?
A Yes, Sir.
Q And that the informal entry and import declaration almost always involved the specific description of the cargo?
A Yes Sir.
x x x x
So the difference in the two documents is that, the permit to deliver imported goods contained in a general description while the informal import declaration of entry contained the specific description there of the cargo covered by the informal entry, is that correct?
A Yes, Sir.
Q In your experience, Mr. witness, as a Hearing Officer of the Bureau of Customs, is that a fact that these shipment documents are prepared not by the importer but by the supplier?
A That is the procedure.
Q And, therefore, the importer has no hand in the preparation of this shipping document?
Q And, whatever declaration misrepresentations are made not by the importer but by the supplier?
A Correct, because it's the supplier which prepare (sic) the shipping documents where the declaration are being made.
In the appeal before the CTA, respondent Commissioner of Customs contended that the seizure of the shipment was made also upon a finding that the documents covering it were forged, thus constituting fraud as defined in Sec. 1, par. 1. a., CMO-87-92. This Section is of the same tenor as Sec. 2530, pars, (f) and (m), subpars. 3, 4 and 5, which for emphasis deals with falsities committed by the owner, importer, exporter or consignee or importation/exportation through any other practice or device. In Aznar, as reiterated in Farolan, we clarified that the fraud contemplated by law must be actual and not constructive. It must be intentional, consisting of deception willfully and deliberately done or resorted to in order to induce another to give up some right. The misdeclarations in the manifest and rider cannot be ascribed to petitioner as consignee since it was not the one that prepared them. As we said in Farolan, if at all, the wrongful making or falsity of the documents can only be attributed to the foreign suppliers or shippers. Moreover, it was not shown in the forfeiture decision that petitioner had knowledge of any falsity in the shipping documents. District Collector Rosqueta's comment on petitioner's second motion for reconsideration is enlightening: "While the shipment was misdeclared in the rider and the manifest, the consignee is innocent of the facts stated therein as it had no hand in their preparation or issuance." We mention in passing that in having thus stated, she in effect nullified her prior finding that petitioner violated the cited provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code as amended. Consequently, we agree with the finding of the CTA that fraud was not committed by petitioner in the importation of the shipment.
Petitioner Remigio did not make or attempt to make an entry of imported articles by means of any false or fraudulent invoice, declaration, affidavit, letter, paper, or by means of any false statement, verbal or oral, or by means of any false or fraudulent practice whatsoever, x x x
x x x x
Accused Erwin C. Remigio, as customs broker, prepared the entry covering the shipment based on the bill of lading, the invoice, the packing list, letter of credit, the import entry declaration and the Central Bank Release Certificate. The given address of Borham Trading was at 37 Harvard Street, Quezon City. There was nothing in the documents to show that there was anything amiss in the shipment or the covering documents. A customs broker is not required to go beyond the documents presented to him in filing an entry on the basis of such documents.
Section 3601 provides that x x x Any person who shall fraudulently import or bring into the Philippines, or assist in so doing, any article, contrary to law, or shall receive, conceal, buy, sell or in any manner facilitate the transportation, concealment, or sale of such article after importation, knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law, shall be guilty of smuggling and shall be punished with x x x.
Accused Remigio did not fraudulently assist in the importation of any article contrary to law nor facilitated its transportation, knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law. All accused Remigio did was to prepare the import entry based on the shipping and other documents required by the Bureau of Customs and file the same.
We emphasize that the great goal of our criminal law and procedure is not to send people to the gaol but to do justice. The prosecution's job is to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Conviction must be based on the strength of the prosecution and not on the weakness of the defense - the obligation is upon the shoulders of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused, not on the accused to prove his innocence. Thus, when the evidence of the prosecution is not enough to sustain a conviction, it must be rejected and the accused absolved and released at once.