Circular on seizure of goods from hoarders, profiteers rushed

April 26, 2020

The joint circular between government agencies for the seizure of goods from smugglers, profiteers, and hoarders has been finalized, the Department of Justice  said.

In a press statement, Justice Undersecretary and spokesperson Markk Perete said the Departments of Justice, Trade and Industry, Health, Interior and Local Government, and Agriculture, as well as the Bureau of Customs, have finalized the joint circular for the seizure, forfeiture, and disposition of basic or prime commodities, and health products and other goods necessary to address the coronavirus disease 2019, and articles of prime necessity pending preliminary investigation or trial.

The circular deputizes the National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group  the National Bureau of Investigation,  and other law enforcement agencies to conduct operations against persons and establishments violating the Price Act or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, and to confiscate goods from said persons or establishments.

The goods will be turned over to either the DTI, DoH, DA, or DoH, as the case may be, which would  then initiate summary proceedings for the seizure of the goods.

Under the circular upon presentation of substantial evidence that the goods were imported, held or otherwise possessed by the person or establishment in violation of the Price Act or the CMTA, the goods would be formally seized and thereafter either forfeited in favor of the government or disposed of in accordance with the law.

In cases where the law requires the holding of a public auction or sale as a mode of disposition, the government is given the preference to purchase the goods at the existing suggested retail price.

In the absence of an SRP, the purchase would be at the market price. When permitted by law, an outright donation to the government would be resorted to.

The joint circular also required law enforcers and the agency conducting seizure proceedings to strictly follow rules on the inventory of confiscated goods so as to avoid compromising the criminal prosecution where such goods are originally supposed to be used as evidence.

It likewise directs prosecutors to cause the transfer of custody of these goods to the appropriate agency for seizure.

To guarantee the safety of goods and medical supplies, consultation with the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies is required prior to the seizure of confiscated goods.

The joint circular has been issued to ensure that prime commodities, especially medical supplies and personal protective equipment, seized from persons and establishments engaged in illegal importation, hoarding, price manipulation, and fraudulent practices are made immediately available for use by hospitals and medical facilities.