Confiscation of imported fruits at the airport: lawful or not?

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Confiscation of imported fruits at the airport: lawful or not?

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I came across a Facebook rant from friend Karen when she came from Bangkok.

She was bringing into the country notably sweet Bangkok lanzones which she stuck in her checked luggage.

When inspected, it was confiscated by inspectors at the airport.

What made her  angry was when the confiscated lanzones were not thrown into a garbage container.

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So, upon confiscation, Karen destroyed the lanzones she brought from Bankok.

The question is: what are the legalities about bringing into the country fruits like lanzones for  personal consumption?

At the outset, there is a very legitimate reason why the state, through our government inspectors in the airport, restrict  the entry of fruits coming from other countries.

This is to prevent our local crops from being contaminated , injured or damaged by pests or other elements which may accompany the fruits that passengers bring into the country.

There is a substantive evil that is sought to be prevented at the airports: the destruction of our local crops.

Having said that, on the other hand, fruits brought into the country by passengers cannot be arbitrarily confiscated.

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When one buys lanzones in a Bangkok market, it becomes the buyers property.

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Under our constitution, no person shall be deprived of his or her property without due process of law.

There is a need therefore, to balance the power of the state to protect the nation’s agricultural crops, and the right of our people against undue deprivation of their property.

This is the classic constitutional tug of war between state power against guaranteed civil liberties.

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What is the law that regulates bringing of fruits like lanzones into the country?

There  aQuarantine Law of 1978 under Presidential Decree 1433.

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Section 3 of the law states: “Importation of Plants and Plant Products.  — The importation and/or introduction into the Philippines of plants, plant products, soil, packing materials of plant origin capable of harboring and are a source of medium of infection/infestation of plant pests, is hereby restricted subject to such quarantine orders, rules and regulations as may be promulgated, from time to time, by the Director with the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture.”

Immediately, one can notice that there is nothing in the law that uses the word “prohibit”. The laws says “restricted”

Prohibition and restriction are mutually exclusive. If something is restricted, it cannot be prohibited.

Conversely if something is prohibited, it cannot be restricted. There is no need to restrict something that is already prohibited.

Thus when the airport officer says lanzones brought in from Bankok are “prohibited,” then that officer is going against the law.

In the case of Karen, the paper filled up by the airport inspector checked “prohibited” in describing the lanzones. That appears to contravene the wording of  Section 3 P.D. 1433.

So, when a passenger is told that bringing in lanzones from Bangkok is prohibited, the passenger can demand from the airport officer under what law is it stated that bringing in of lanzones from Bangkok is “prohibited.”

If the airport inspector cannot produce this law or regulation, then it would be an unconstitutional deprivation of property without due process of law, and the airport inspector can be held answerable.

Continued next week…

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