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#153 Perez v LPG Refillers

BP Blg. 33 penalizes illegal trading, hoarding, overpricing, adulteration,
underdelivery, and underfilling of petroleum products, as well as possession for
trade of adulterated petroleum products and of underfilled liquefied petroleum gas
(LPG) cylinders. It sets a minimum of P20,000 and a maximum of P50,000 as
penalties. The Department of Energy issued Circular No. 2000-06-010 to implement
the law. LPG Refillers Association of the Philippines asked the DOE to set aside the
Circular for being contrary to law. It was denied, hence they filed an action before
the RTC to nullify the circular. RTC granted the petition and nullified the Circular on
the ground that it introduced new offenses not included in the statue and in
providing penalties per cylinder basis for each violation, there is a possibility that
the P50,000 maximum penalty might be exceeded. The Circular has a range of
P1,000-5,000/cylinder for first offenses and a range of P5,000-10k/cylinder for third
offenses. For retails outlets, the max penalty is 20k. Aside from the monetary fines,
some offenses also include the recommendation the closure of the business to the
proper LGU. Meanwhile, petitioner Sec. Perez of the DOE argues that DOE is
empowered by the ff. provisions to penalize the acts it enumerated in the circular:
BP Blg. 33, as amended: SEC. 3-A. Rules and Regulations; Administrative sanctions
for violation thereof. The Bureau of Energy Utilization shall issue such rules and
regulations as are necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this Act, subject to
the approval of the Minister of Energy, after consultation with the affected industry
sectors. Said rules and regulations shall take effect fifteen (15) days from the date
of its publication in two (2) newspapers of general circulation. The Bureau of
Energy Utilization is empowered to impose in an administrative proceeding, after
due notice and hearing, upon any person who violates any provision of such rules
and regulations, a fine of not more than ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) or to
suspend or remove the license or permit of a hauler, marketer, refiller, dealer, sub-
dealer or retail outlet: Provided, That hearing in any administrative proceedings may
be waived by respondent. Provided, Further, That during the pendency of such
administrative proceeding, the Bureau may suspend the business operations of such
hauler, marketer, refiller, dealer, sub-dealer or retailer or retail outlet operator when
the suspension is consistent with public interest. x x x x The administrative
sanction that may be imposed shall be without prejudice to the filing of a criminal
action as the case may warrant. 23 of RA 8479 (Downstream Oil Industry
Deregulation Act of 1998): Section 23. Implementing Rules and Regulations. The
DOE, in coordination with the Board, the DENR, DFA, Department of Labor and
Employment (DOLE), Department of Health (DOH), DOF, DTI, National Economic and
Development Authority (NEDA) and TLRC, shall formulate and issue the necessary
implementing rules and regulations within sixty (60) days after the effectivity of this
Act. 5(g) and 21 of RA 7638 (Department of Energy Act of 1992): (g) Formulate
and implement programs, including a system of providing incentives and penalties,
for the judicious and efficient use of energy in all energy-consuming sectors of the
WoN the Circular is valid/legal
Yes. For an administrative regulation, to have the force of penal law, the following
must concur: the violation of the administrative regulation must be made a crime by
the delegating statute itself; and the penalty for such violation must be provided by
the statute itself. BP Blg 33 only states merely lists the various modes by which the
said criminal acts may be perpetrated, namely: no price display board, no weighing
scale, no tare weight or incorrect tare weight markings, no authorized LPG seal, no
trade name, unbranded LPG cylinders, no serial number, no distinguishing color, no
embossed identifying markings on cylinder, underfilling LPG cylinders, tampering
LPG cylinders, and unauthorized decanting of LPG cylinders. The acts and omissions
stated in the circular are well within the modes contemplated by the law and serve
the purpose of curbing pernicious practices of LPG dealers. As for the second
requirement: The statute provides a minimum and maximum amount as penalties.
The maximum pecuniary penalty for retail outlets is P20,000, an amount within the
range allowed by law. Although the circular is silent as to the max penalty for
refillers, marketers, and dealers, such does not amount to violation of the statutory
maximum limit. The mere fact that the Circular provides penalties on a per cylinder
basis does not in itself run counter to the law since all that B.P. Blg. 33 prescribes
are the minimum and the maximum limits of penalties. The law was intended to
provide the DOE with increased administrative and penal measures with which to
effectively curtail rampant adulteration and shortselling, as well as other acts
involving petroleum products, which are inimical to public interest.