Court declares PASG an illegal agency
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court has declared the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) an illegal agency.
Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 26 ruled last March 8 that Executive Order 624 creating the PASG usurped the powers of Congress.
“The functions being performed by the PASG are already being performed by the Bureau of Customs under the Tariff and Customs Code,” read the court decision.
The court said EO 624 created an instrumentality in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of the government.
“Being contrary to the provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code (P.D. No. 1464), (EO 624) practically amended, revised, and modified the law,” read the court’s decision. “This power belongs to Congress.”
The court said the PASG’s creation is akin to that of the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (EIIB), which duplicated the functions of existing agencies of the government, read the court’s decision.
Although the EIIB’s creation was not declared unconstitutional, then President Joseph Estrada deactivated the agency through an executive order, the court said.
The court agreed with plaintiff Siu Ting Alpha Kwok alias Alpha Kwok that the power of the President to issue executive orders is limited to the implementation of constitutional or statutory powers.
“The creation of PASG is not a product of simply reshaping or reorganizing the bureaucracy,” read the court’s decision.
Kwok through counsel Bonifacio Alentajan had asked the court to declare void and unconstitutional EO 624 creating the PASG.
The agency arrested Kwok in August last year for allegedly smuggling some P500-million worth of jewels and precious stones into the country.
‘GMA can be held criminally liable’
Alentajan said President Arroyo can be held criminally liable for creating the PASG.
“(She) can be held liable for signing that Executive Order. It’s a criminal act,” he said.
“It constitutes graft and corruption and violation of separation of powers.”
Alentajan said EO 624 empowers the PASG to determine the existence of probable cause, a power which is constitutionally vested with the courts.
“This is another culpable violation of the Constitution, and abusive exercise of executive function,” he said.
Alentajan said the PASG can no longer operate even if an appeal is filed before the Supreme Court.
“Abolished na sila (They have been abolished),” he said.
The PASG merely duplicates the functions of the Bureau of Customs, Alentajan said.
Palace: Ruling could hamper anti-smuggling operations
Malacañang warned yesterday the court’s decision could hamper the PASG’s anti-smuggling campaign.
Speaking to reporters, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said his office has yet to receive a copy of the ruling and that the Department of Justice would work to overturn it.
“As we have envisioned, the creation of the anti-smuggling task group is to curb the smuggling activities particularly in the waterfronts and even in some private ports,” he said.
On the other hand, Jeffrey Patawaran, PASG chief of staff, said the agency can continue with its operations as the ruling is not final and executory and they could appeal it before the higher courts. – Sandy Araneta, Michael Punongbayan, Paolo Romero