Political Law

Commissioner of Customs & Collector of Customs vs Eastern Sea Trading

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G.R. No. L-14279 – 3 SCRA 351 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Powers of the President – Treaties vs Executive Agreements – Executive Agreements do not need senate concurrence

Eastern Sea Trading (EST) was a shipping company which imports onion and garlic from Japan. In 1956, the Commissioner of Customs ordered the seizure and forfeiture of the import goods because EST was not able to comply with Central Bank Circulars 44 and 45. The said circulars were pursuant to Executive Order 328. EO 328 was the implementing law of the Trades and Financial Agreements, an executive agreement, entered into between the Philippines and Japan. The said executive agreement states, among others, that all import transactions between Japan and the Philippines should be invoiced in dollar. In this case, the said items imported by EST from Japan were not invoiced in dollar.

EST questioned the validity of the said EO averring that the executive agreement that the EO was implementing was never concurred upon by the Senate. The issue was elevated to the Court of Tax Appeals and the latter ruled in favor of EST. The Commissioner appealed.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Executive Agreement is subject to the concurrence by the Senate.

HELD: No. Executive Agreements are not like treaties which are subject to the concurrence of at least 2/3 of the members of the Senate. Agreements concluded by the President which fall short of treaties are commonly referred to as executive agreements and are no less common in our scheme of government than are the more formal instruments – treaties and conventions. They sometimes take the form of exchanges of notes and at other times that of more formal documents denominated ‘agreements’ or ‘protocols’.

The point where ordinary correspondence between this and other governments ends and agreements – whether denominated executive agreements or exchanges of notes or otherwise – begin, may sometimes be difficult of ready ascertainment. It would be useless to undertake to discuss here the large variety of executive agreements as such, concluded from time to time. Hundreds of executive agreements, other than those entered into under the trade- agreements act, have been negotiated with foreign governments. . . . It would seem to be sufficient, in order to show that the trade agreements under the act of 1934 are not anomalous in character, that they are not treaties, and that they have abundant precedent in our history, to refer to certain classes of agreements heretofore entered into by the Executive without the approval of the Senate.

They cover such subjects as the inspection of vessels, navigation dues, income tax on shipping profits, the admission of civil aircraft, customs matters, and commercial relations generally, international claims, postal matters, the registration of trade-marks and copyrights, etc. Some of them were concluded not by specific congressional authorization but in conformity with policies declared in acts of Congress with respect to the general subject matter, such as tariff acts; while still others, particularly those with respect to the settlement of claims against foreign governments, were concluded independently of any legislation.

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