Court junks Coca-Cola’s motion to reconsider TRO vs sugar order

A REGIONAL Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City junked the motion of beverage giant Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines, asking to reconsider its petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the sugar order regulating the importation of high fructose corn syrup.

The eight-page resolution was penned by Quezon City RTC Branch 98 Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang on April 24.

The decision said, “Irrespective of the petition for issuance of writ of preliminary injunction, the motion for reconsideration (MR) filed by Coca-Cola against the order of this court denying the issuance of TRO to enjoin Sugar Regulatory Administrator (SRA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) from implementing and/or enforcing Sugar Order No. 3 is denied.”

“The hearing of this case for the purpose of determining the propriety of issuing a writ of preliminary injunction, and eventually, of permanent injunction, as well as the principal case stands as scheduled,” it added.

Coca-Cola’s petition for injunction is still pending before the court.

The next hearing is set on Wednesday, May 10.

Named respondents in the case were SRA chief Anna Rosario Paner, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and Sugar Board members Hermenegildo Serafica and Roland Beltran.

Both Paner and Beltran prayed that the motion of Coca-Cola be denied for lack of merit.

In Serafica’s opposition, he noted that Circular No. 22, which Coca-Cola also questioned, is only an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) and not a legislative rule, and does not require publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

He added that the beverage giant never took measures and appropriate action to comply with the provisions of the sugar order and the IRR, as it challenges the legality of the sugar order in the case.

The decision noted that Coca-Cola failed to substantiate its claim that the court erred in denying the TRO, adding that the beverage company did not even cite the testimony of its witness during the hearing on the TRO application in support of its arguments in the MR.

The judge reiterated that it already denied the petition for TRO of Coke as there is “no grave and irreparable injury, based on law and jurisprudence.”

It noted that Coke’s contention on its MR cited lack of due process in the implementation of IRR of Sugar Order No. 3 and its HFCS imports are being held in various ports in the country.

The judge stressed that the beverage company is “too busy” preparing its MR that it forgot to inform the court of the IRR being discussed, “leaving this court oblivious that the assailed IRR translates into actual policy,” it added.

“Instead, plaintiff (Coca-Cola) chose to incorporate the discussion of the IRR in this motion rather than have the civility of filing a supplemental pleading as instructed by the Rules of Civil Procedure,” the decision stressed.

The judge admitted that the IRR may have caused injury and additional expenses to the beverage giant, but it does not constitute grave and irreparable injury because it is quantifiable.

“As to the rhetoric of Coca-Cola, that it could not possibly recover the expenses/tariff already paid, is equivalent to whining, like a spoilt child, deprived of its corn and sweets,” the judge emphasized, adding that “this court cannot countenance such folly as to grant the brisk remedy of TRO at the expense of deviating from what is settled.”

‘Small victory’

Former Negros Occidental vice governor Emilio Yulo III, spokesperson of Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, said they are grateful that the court sees no merit in Coke's petition.

“This is a victory albeit a small one and we will now prepare for the main case,” he added.

Yulo said that Coca-Cola’s public statement that they acknowledge the validity of the sugar order is contrary to the cases they filed, “which they also said they will withdraw during the senate hearing , which they have not up to now.”

Meanwhile, the court also denied Coca-Cola’s petition seeking to declare BOC in default for failing to file an answer within the 15-day reglementary period as it already granted the latter’s motion for extension of time.

Also, the same court denied the joint motion for reconsideration filed by sugar federations to intervene in the petition of Coca-Cola to nullify SRA’s sugar order.
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