Government Fast-tracks Seizure Proceedings of Goods Confiscated During The ECQ

Under Joint Circular 01-2020 dated 24 April 2020, the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Bureau of Customs (each referred to as “Implementing Agency” and collectively referred to as “Implementing Agencies”), together with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), National Bureau of Investigation, and other Law Enforcement Agencies (collectively referred to as “Deputized Personnel”) are mandated to immediately initiate summary proceedings for the formal seizure of goods, whether imported or locally produced, that were confiscated in the course of their operations, more particularly:

  • basic or prime commodities under the Price Act;
  • health products and other goods intended to address the COVID-19 public health emergency or articles of prime necessity under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.

The Implementing Agencies shall adhere to the following guidelines to ensure the speedy forfeiture of the foregoing goods:

  1. Inventory shall immediately be made by the Implementing Agencies in the presence of the owner/proprietor/manager of the establishment and of such other persons whose presence is required by law, and in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Price Act of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).
  2. In cases where the Price Act and CMTA are both applicable, the Implementing Agencies shall adopt the proceedings deemed more expedient to facilitate and fast-track the seizure, forfeiture, and disposal of goods in favor of the State.
  3. Notwithstanding any requirement for public sale or auction as a mode of disposition, the State shall be given preference in the purchase of the goods formally seized that are deemed essential or necessary to address the current public health emergency, in accordance with the authority granted under RA 11469, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
  4. In the event that the State exercises its preferential right as provided above, it shall purchase the goods based on the latest Suggested Retail Price (SRP) imposed by the respective Implementing Agencies, or the prevailing market price in the absence of SRP.
  5. The proceeds of any sale of goods thus seized shall, where applicable, be held in escrow by the Implementing Agencies, subject to the final determination of the liability of the persons charged with violating the Price Act of the CMTA.
  6. Outright donation of confiscated/seized goods to government agencies needing them, whenever authorized under any existing laws, shall be expeditiously observed.

Meanwhile, all Deputized Personnel shall also observe the above guidelines in causing the formal seizure of goods that they confiscated during the period of declared health emergency. In addition, they must comply with the following directives:

  1. Law enforcement agencies shall conduct the inventory in coordination with the appropriate Implementing Agency, to which they shall forthwith cause the immediate turnover of the confiscated goods.
  2. The Implementing Agency concerned shall then summarily cause the formal seizure, forfeiture, and disposal of the same in accordance with the provision of the Price Act of the CMTA, strictly taking into account the preference granted to the State, and the necessity of preserving the evidence for purposes of prosecution.
  3. The law enforcement agency concerned shall institute the criminal proceedings before the investigating or inquest prosecutor in charge.

If a complaint has already been filed prior to the effectivity of JC 01-2020, the prosecutor shall order the immediate transfer of the confiscated goods to the concerned Implementing Agency for subsequent formal seizure and disposal. In case the information is already pending in court, the handling prosecutor shall file a motion to transfer the custody over the confiscated goods to the proper Implementing Agency.

The Implementing Agencies shall consult with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulatory bodies before initiating formal seizure and disposal proceedings to ensure that the confiscated goods are safe for distribution and utilization; otherwise, the said goods shall be returned to the law enforcement agency or prosecutor to be used as evidence before subsequent disposal in accordance with law.

Click here to read the entire text of JC 01-2020.

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