DOE-7 challenges legality of release of seized butane refill equipment

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo April 09,2018 - 06:53 PM

The Department of Energy (DOE-7) regional office questioned on Monday the legality of the release order issued by the Cebu Provincial Legal Office (PLO) of confiscated butane refilling and delivery equipment.

DOE-7 Legal Officer Russ Mark Gamallo said the seized items were forfeited in favor of the government.

The equipment consisted of several refilling machines for canisters, unauthorized liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders, and two delivery vehicles.

They were seized in a raid of two unauthorized butane refilling plants in Minglanilla town, Cebu by DOE-7 personnel and Minglanilla police in May last year.

With no space for storage, the DOE-7 temporarily stored the items to the Cebu province-owned Balili property in Naga City.

These items reportedly belonged to a certain Maria Amor Mahinay who owns the two refilling plants.

Mahinay pled guilty and was convicted of violating Presidential Decree 1865 or the illegal operation of petroleum refilling plants on July 4, 2017. She was fined P20,000.

“Since the owner of the items was convicted beyond reasonable doubt (it is expected under law) that the seized items shall be forfeited in favor of the government,” Gamallo said.

Gamallo said he wrote the governor’s office to express their objection to the release last November but there was no official response.

Due to a column published in Cebu Daily News on March 7, 2017, that questioned the release of the equipment, Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Orvi Ortega explained in writing to the governor that the release of the equipment was in compliance with a court order released in relation to Mahinay’s case.

“The court order dated July 4, 2017, did not direct forfeiture and/or disposal of the vehicles and any confiscated/apprehended items,” Ortega’s letter read.

Ortega described the decision to release the items as an “honest and considered legal view of the PLO”, saying there were no legal grounds to “detain further, much more forfeit, the delivery vans, LPG tanks, air compressors, weighing scales and LPG refilling machines.”

Ortega also confirmed that Mahinay was fined P10,000 for violating Provincial Ordinance No. 2016-15 or the Prohibition of Refilling, Distribution and Retailing of LPG in canisters within the Territorial Jurisdiction of the Province of Cebu.

Under the ordinance, only butane canisters, whether empty or filled, must be disposed. But Gamallo challenged the PLO to prove that the provincial ordinance should overrule a Presidential Decree and the revised penal code itself.

Gamallo said under the revised penal code, any seized items can only be released
if they were owned by another person who wasn’t involved in the crime.

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TAGS: Butane, challenges, DOE-7, equipment, legality, refill, release, seized

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