Santiago seeks Senate probe of Cagayan port

February 14, 2013 11:30 pm 

MANILA, Feb. 14 – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she is working on a resolution to investigate what she called the “contumacious” operation of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Free Port (CSEZ), particularly with the arrival of used cars last Monday at Port Irene in Sta. Ana town despite the Supreme Court's decision banning the importation of vehicles.

“The continued importation of used cars at Port Irene constitutes an open defiance of a decision of the Supreme Court," Santiago said.

In its 7 January 2013 ruling in the case of Executive Secretary v. Forerunner Multi Resources, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an executive order imposing a partial ban on the importation of used cars. Executive Order No. 156 was issued by then President Arroyo to deter smuggling and “accelerate the sound development of the motor vehicle industry in the Philippines.”

The Supreme Court ruled that vehicles imported from abroad “may only be stored, used or traded, or exported out of Philippine territory, but cannot be imported into the Philippines outside of the secured fenced-in former Subic Naval Base area.” In effect, the Supreme Court ruling barred the importation of vehicles by the CSEZ.

Santiago noted that the Supreme Court had previously sustained the constitutionality of E.O. No. 156, which imposes a partial ban on the importation of used cars, in the 2006 case of Executive Secretary v. Southwing Heavy Industries Inc.

Reports claimed that CESZ refused to abide by the Supreme Court’s order because the permits were issued prior to the decision. In response, Santiago claimed that the date the receipts were issued was immaterial since the constitutionality of EO156 has long been sustained by the Court in its decision in Southwing back in 2006.

“It is absurd for the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) to claim that it could still import used vehicles for permits prior to the decision of the Supreme Court last January 7. CEZA has no authority to process import permits whether issued prior to the decision of the Court last January 7 or thereafter, since the Court already upheld the constitutionality of E.O. No. 156 as early as 2006,” the senator explained.

Santiago stated that to construe otherwise would allow CEZA's favored contractor to benefit from the defiance of the 2006 decision of the Supreme Court and would open the floodgates for antedated import permits.

Santiago added that her resolution will also call for an investigation into the role played by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The senator said she has finished a prior resolution seeking a public hearing to investigate Enrile for the alleged crime of unlawful publication, in connection with his conflicting versions of his alleged ambush just before martial law.

“Mr. Enrile was the prime mover behind the CSEZ. Several years ago, he even arrogantly claimed that Pres. Arroyo’s ban on importation of used vehicles was unconstitutional, and with constant hubris, he also sharply criticized the Supreme Court for upholding the ban,” Santiago said.

Santiago, an elected Judge of the International Criminal Court, using international law language, said that Enrile’s actuations concerning the Cagayan port “seeks to bolster the culture of impunity,” or exemption from punishment.

“The Senate needs to investigate why everyone in the Philippines is prohibited from imported vehicles except the entity created and protected by Enrile. What makes him so special?” she asked. (PNA)

FPV /JFM

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