REGIONAL Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 former presiding judge George Omelio ordered the suspension of the issuance of the arrest warrant against Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc. (PPPI) president Dennis Uy after finding no probable cause to charge him with smuggling.

The former judge, in a nine-page order dated October 4, cited that the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to specify how Uy could have been involved in the illegal importation of petroleum products. Omelio said no documents could point out on how Uy took part in the preparation, processing, or lodging of documents of the importations questioned.

Omelio insisted that DOJ cannot simply accuse Uy for violations of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) as they could have just directed the charges to the entire PPPI instead.

"As correctly pointed out by the DOJ, a corporation like PPPI has a separate distinct personality from its directors and officers and can only exercise its corporate powers through the board of directors. This statement, however, does not mean that the board of directors or corporate officer are criminally liable for the acts of the corporation.

Only corporate officers who are shown to have actually participated in the anomalous acts may be held criminally liable," Omelio said.

The axed judge also said DOJ failed to establish the allegations of fraud saying, "If at all, the DOJ merely made general averments as to the existence of fraud in the case at bar without any allegation as to how the purported fraud was perpetrated by the accused."

The allegation of DOJ that Uy is criminally liable for claiming importations that should have been seized in favor of the government after the respondent failed to file an import entry within 30 days was also refuted by Omelio claiming that TCCP has no penalties for this violation and that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) failed to show concrete evidence that the imports claimed by PPPI were indeed declared abandoned especially that the E2M Customs System of BOC indicated that there are import entries for the shipments claimed by PPPI.

The same argument was also raised on the allegations that the shipments claimed by Uy were not covered by a load port survey. Omelio said that there is no criminal offense when a claimed shipment is not declared in the load port survey but that shipment should be subject to "an extensive physical examination by an accredited cargo surveying company." Only then will be the shipment be discharged after the cargo surveying company clears it.

Prosecutors Mari Elvira Herrera and Ramon Chito Mendoza of DOJ filed a motion for reconsideration on Omelio's order. Pairing Judge Ridgway Tanjili then scheduled a hearing on March 24 to determine the whether or not the motion will be granted. Uy, through his legal counsel Ramon Batacan, was ordered to comment on the motion for reconsideration.