MANILA — Authorities are studying the possibility of turning over to front line medical personnel and institutions the emergency goods seized from profiteers and hoarders amid the imposed month-long enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Justice undersecretary and spokesperson Markk Perete on Monday told newsmen that the Department of Justice has been coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Health (DOH) for the possible seizure of medical items confiscated by law enforcers in the course of their operations.
Perete said the procedure would involve seizure of the confiscated items and its procurement by the government for distribution to hospitals.
“After the seizure, the items will be sold through public auction. But since there is a public health emergency, we are looking at the government being given preference in the sale of these confiscated items,” Perete said.
The DOJ said that since an offender has not yet been convicted, the confiscated items cannot be considered automatically the property of the government.
“The summary seizure proceeding is borne out of the need to uphold due process rights,” he said, adding that the government procurement for confiscated goods by the BOC and DTI have different basis but have similar processes.
Perete said since last week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) alone has confiscated over 1,500 thermal scanners and millions worth of face masks from sellers who face charges of hoarding, overpricing and price manipulation, among others. The Philippine National Police has also conducted similar operations.
Perete added that under normal circumstances, items confiscated from these operations are kept and preserved in the custody of law enforcers pending preliminary investigation. These confiscated items will later be used as evidence during prosecution.
“However, the shortage in supply of these confiscated medical items and the urgent necessity to make them available to hospital and medical facilities at the forefront of the fight against the novel coronavirus prompted the Department to study the possibility of putting them to use even before the commencement of, and without jeopardizing, the prosecution of the criminal case against unscrupulous business owners,” Perete said.
The Customs Modernization and Tariffs Act and the Price Act allow the seizure of confiscated items pending commencement of administrative and criminal proceedings.
“The Department is, therefore, coordinating with the relevant agencies to make sure that seizure proceedings can be had pursuant to the aforecited laws,” Perete said. (PNA)