PNP collecting excessive gun fees, SC told
A GROUP of gun owners on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to stop the Philippine National Police (PNP) from collecting “excessive” fees for gun and ammunition permits.
In the 41-page petition for prohibition, Go Act and gun owner Richard Infantado said the high court should declare as unconstitutional the fees imposed for firearms licenses and permits because these are tantamount to a tax measure, which only Congress can prescribe.
The petitioner further asked the high court to issue a status quo order directing the PNP to continue accepting applications for processing and issuing of Licenses to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF), Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) and Sports Shooter Licenses (SSL) and all the other licenses and permits pending the resolution of their plea.
The PNP started implementing the collection of fees last June 15. Petitioners said the fee ranges from P1,000 for an LTOPF up to P10,000 depending on the type of LTOPF type applied for.
“The legal principle, as enunciated by the Supreme Court in various jurisprudence, is that administrative fees must be in such amounts as to cover the actual cost of rendering the service and should not be aimed at or result in generating revenue for the government,” petitioners said.
“Otherwise, if the fees seek to raise revenue and not just cover the actual cost of service, it is already a tax. And under the Constitution, only Congress may impose a tax. The Executive Department of government has no authority to impose a tax on its own,” the petition stated.
The petitioners argued that contrary to the claim of the respondents, the Schedule of Fees is not just aimed at defraying the cost of processing and issuing of the LTOPF, PTCFOR and other licenses and permits of individual gun owners but is rather a form of taxation.
“Illustrative of this is that under the Schedule of Fees, an LTOPF, which is the basic license all firearm owners must have, will cost anywhere from P1,000 for a type 1 licensee (who owns a maximum of two firearms) to P10, 000 for a type 5 licensee or those who owns more than 15 firearms,” the petitioners said.
“On its face, such a graduated scale of fees depending on the license type may appear valid for purposes of regulation and licensing. However, it is clear that such amounts are far in excess of and thus have to relevance to the cost of licensing and regulating the owner of firearms,” they added.
The petitioners said this is on top of the cost firearm owners have to shoulder, namely for getting certification such as psychiatric test, drug test gun, safety seminar, clearance from the PNP Directorate for Intelligence and police clearance.
They said a certificate for neuro-psychiatric exams costs about P900, while a drug test and corresponding certificate cost P400. A clearance from the PNP Directorate for Intelligence costs P150.
“That the rates contained in the Schedule of Fees is exorbitant and tantamount to taxation is further underscored by the fact that the PNP would be able to raise P650 million from LTOPFs alone. To place the aforementioned amount in perspective, the entire budget of the PNP in 2013 amounted to P67 billion. In other words, respondents seek to raise around one percent of the entire annual budget of the PNP from a source which has no legal basis whatsoever,” they added.
The petitioners likewise argued that the respondents committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when they arrogated unto themselves the power of taxation which the SC in previous jurisprudence has repeatedly stressed belongs exclusively to the Legislative branch of government.
“RA 10591 which the Schedule of Fees purports to be based is clearly a regulatory statute, and not a taxation or revenue regulating law enacted by Congress in order to govern the ownership and possession of firearms and to curb criminality involving unlicensed firearms. In other words, Congress did not impose any tax in connection with RA 10591 and its implementation and neither did it delegate any such authority to respondents,” the petitioners explained.
The respondents said these should be enough reasons for the high court to stop the respondents from further implementing the Schedule of Fees in order to “prevent grave and irreparable injury” to them as well as all legitimate firearm owners in the country.
Aside from PNP-OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the other respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP-Civil Security Group chief, C/Supt. Elmer Soria and PNP-Firearms and Explosives Division chief, C/Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona.
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