Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta led this afternoon the formal launching of the Rule on Administrative Search and Inspection under the Philippine Competition Act (PCA) or Republic Act No. 10667 which is aimed at helping in the investigation and prosecution of competition law offenses.
Speaking during the Seminar-Workshop for Special Commercial Court Judges and Its Pairing Courts on the Rule on Administrative Search and Inspection under the PCA at the Rizal Park Hotel, Manila, said that the launch was “more than just a symbolic ceremony” but an “an opportunity to celebrate the result of months of hard work and effort that Supreme Court’s Special Committee for the Rules on Inspection, the Court’s resource persons, and the officials of the Philippine Competition Commission partners poured onto the completion of this initiative.” The Chief Justice is the Chairperson of the SC’s Special Committee for the Rules on Inspection.
Underscoring the importance of procedural rules as “fundamental part of any judicial system,” Chief Justice Peralta said that he included the continuous revision and issuance of rules of procedure so as to make the law more responsive and accessible to the needs of court-users and the conduct by the Philippine Judicial Academy of more skills-based training for judges and court personnel” when he assumed office as 26th Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines in October last year.
The Chief Justice stressed that the SC is constantly improving laws on procedure so that the courts may provide effective service to the public. He explained that procedural rules “ensure that the results of court processes and issuances are in accordance with the principles of justice and legitimacy” and “form vital links that connect the domain of substantive law to that of judicial administration–ensuring that the application of the law in relation to the rights and liberties of the public is not only accurate but is also orderly, timely, and intelligible.”
Under En Banc resolution in A.M. No. 19-08-06-SC, the Rule shall govern the application, issuance and enforcement of an inspection order for administrative investigations of alleged violations of the PCA, its implementing rules and regulations, and other competition laws. The Rule took effect on November 16, 2019.
The PCA “is the primary competition policy of the Philippines for promoting and protecting competitive market.” It defines and penalizes anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions. It also gives the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) the power, upon order of the court, to undertake inspections of business premises and other offices, land and vehicles, as used by the entity, where it reasonably suspects that relevant books, tax records, or other documents which relate to any matter relevant to the investigation are kept, in order to prevent the removal, concealment, tampering with, or destruction of the books, records or other documents.
However, the detection, investigation and prosecution of violations of the PCA and related laws require a rule of procedure for the application, issuance and implementation of inspection orders in competition cases.
An inspection order is an order in writing issued in the name of the Republic, signed by a judge, upon application by the PCC. The inspection order can be applied with the designated Special Commercial courts in Quezon City, Manila, Makati, Pasig, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City, and Cagayan de Oro City.
All applications for an inspection order shall be acted upon within 24 hours from its filing. The inspection order shall be issued if the court finds that there is a reasonable ground to suspect: (1) that the information is kept, found, stored, or accessible at the premises indicated in the application; (2) the information relates to any matter relevant to the investigation; and (3) the issuance of the order is necessary to prevent the removal, concealment, tampering with, or destruction of the books, records, or other documents to be inspected.
The Rule was drafted to ensure that the exercise of the power granted under the PCA is effective, objective, efficient, and provides a balance between the right to due process and the strong public interest in the enforcement of the law. ###