Poring into the cash sales of oil companies is improper, rules the office of the Solicitor General (SoCGen), handling the government its first trip in the dash to prove alleged price manipulation among big oil companies.
The victory for oil companies was also a backslide for the Manila Trial Court who tasked government agencies to examine the books of giant oil firms accused of violations of the Oil Deregulation Law.
Citing provisions in the 1987 Constitution, the Administrative code and other relevant laws, Solicitor General Agnes Devenadera explained "the examination or audit of the books of oil firms is beyond the authorities conferred to the Commission on Audit (COA), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Moreover, she argued that to demand compliance would be deemed improper and unjust.
This would then not bind the audit results of whatever the agencies find not legally binding, making the inquiry lame.
Last April, Manila RTC Branch 26 Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. ordered COA, BIR and BOC to form a panel that will look into the books of Pilipinas Shell, Chevron and Petron, which were accused of price manipulation, cartelization and other violations in the Oil Deregulation Law.
The companies denied all allegations.
Pampilo's order covers the "opening and examination of the cash receipts, cash disbursement books, purchase orders on the petroleum products, delivery receipts, sales invoices and other related documents on the purchases of the petroleum products" from January 2003 to December 2003.
As for COA, Devenadera said its mandate is limited to the auditing of the government or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations in accordance with Section 2 (1) of Article IX (D) of the 1987 Constitution.
The examination in the court order, Devenadera said, is not in any way connected with the assessment and collection of taxes, fees and charges due to the government neither to the enforcement of all forfeitures, penalties, and fines, such examination is beyond the limits of the BIR's mandate.
As for the BoC, an examination of the books of the oil companies, as importers, are provided and outlined in the Tariff and Customs Code, as amended by the Republic Act 9135.
If the court would compel the COA, BIR, and BoC to pursue the audit, Devenadera said that such action make the results of the audit legally non-binding. - Philippine Information Agency