ISSUE: Whether or not the Collector of Customs may be held liable for the 43,050 yardsactually lost by the private respondent.
FACTS: S/S Pacific Hawk vessel with Registry No. 170 arrived on January 30, 1972 at the Port of Manila carrying among others, 80 bales of screen net consigned to Bagong Buhay Trading (Bagong Buhay). The import was classified under Tariff Heading no. 39.06-B of theTariff and Customs Code at 35% ad valorem. Bagong Buhay paid the duties and taxes due in the amount of P11,350.00. The Office of the Collector of Customs ordered a re-examination of the shipment upon hearing the information that the shipment consisted of mosquito net made of nylon under Tariff Heading No. 62.02 of the Tariff and Customs Code. Upon re-examination, it turns out that the shipment was undervalued in quantity and value as previously declared. Thus the Collector of Customs forfeited the shipment in favor of the government. Private respondent filed a petition on August 20, 1976 for the release of the questioned goods which the Court denied. On June 2,1986, 64 bales out of the 80 bales were released to Bagong Buhay after several motion. The sixteen remaining bales were missing. The respondent claims that of the 143,454 yards released, only 116,950 yards were in good condition and the rest were in bad condition. Thus, respondents demand that the Bureau of Customs be ordered to pay for damages for the 43,050 yards it actually lost.
RATIO DECIDENDI: Bureau of Customs cannot be held liable for actual damages that the private respondent sustained with regard to its goods. Otherwise, to permit private respondent's claim to prosper would violate the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Since it demands that the Commissioner of Customs be ordered to pay for actual damages it sustained, for which ultimately liability will fall on the government, it is obvious that this case has been converted technically into a suit against the state. On this point, the political doctrine that “state may not be sued without its consent,” categorically applies. As an unincorporated government agency without any separate judicial personality of its own, the Bureau of Customs enjoys immunity from suit. Along with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, it is invested with an inherent power of sovereignty, namely taxation. As an agency, the Bureau of Customs performs the governmental function of collecting revenues which is defined not a proprietary function. Thus private respondents claim for damages against the Commissioner of Customs must fails.