THE Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the authority of commercial courts to issue inspection orders on any companies suspected of violating Republic Act 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act (PCA).
In an en banc resolution, the high court said special commercial courts in Quezon City, the city of Manila, Makati City, Pasig City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City and Cagayan De Oro City can issue inspection orders.
The inspection order can be issued if the court finds reasonable grounds to suspect that the information sought is kept, found, stored, or accessible at the premises indicated in the application; the information relates to any matter relevant to the investigation; and 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.
All applications for an inspection order are to be acted upon within 24 hours from filing.
The resolution also provides that the inspection order be served during business hours, or any time or any day as determined by the court for the reasons stated in the application.
According to SC, the PCA 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,” the high court said in a statement.
The inspection rule takes effect on Nov. 16. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras