Mobil Phils. Exploration, Inc. vs. Customs Arrastre Service

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18 SCRA 1120
December 17, 1966


Four cases of rotary drill parts were shipped from abroad consigned to Mobil Philippines. The Customs Arrastre later delivered to the broker of the consignee three cases only of the shipment. Mobil Philippines Exploration Inc. filed suit in the CFI against the Customs Arrastre Service and the Bureau of Customs to recover the value of the undelivered cases plus other damages.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that not being a person under the law, defendants cannot be sued.

After the plaintiff opposed the motion, the court dismissed the complaint on the ground that neither the Customs Arrastre Service nor the Bureau of Customs is suable.


Can the Customs Arrastre Service or the Bureau of Customs be sued?


NO. The Bureau of Customs, acting as part of the machinery of the national government in the operations of arrastre service, pursuant to express legislative mandate and a necessary incident of its prime governmental function, is immune from suit, there being no statute to the contrary.

The Bureau of Customs has no personality of its own apart from that of the government. Its primary function is governmental, that of assessing and collecting lawful revenues from imported articles and all other tariff and customs duties, fees, charges, fines, and penalties. To this function, arrastre is a necessary incident. Although said arrastre function is deemed proprietary, it is necessarily an incident of the primary and governmental function of the Bureau of Customs, so that engaging in the same does not necessarily render said Bureau liable to suit. For otherwise, it could not perform its governmental function without necessarily exposing itself to suit. Sovereign immunity granted as to the end should not be denied as to the necessary means to that end.

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