Today News
A+ A A-
Charlie V. Manalo and Gerry Baldo

BIR claims discrepancies in CJ’s tax declarations

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines


Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno may be in hotter water with the House committee on justice hearing the complaint against her yesterday was focused on the records of her tax returns at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), with a deputy BIR commissioner placed on the panel’s hot seat.

Without divulging the exact details, a BIR official in yesterday’s hearing, admitted that there exist discrepancies in the tax declarations of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Sereno.
At the resumption of the impeachment hearing against Sereno to determine probable cause, BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa said that while they have found discrepancies in the tax declaration of the Chief Justice, they cannot disclose it for the meantime as they are being restrained by Section 270 of the Tax Code which bars the BIR from divulging any information due of the confidentiality clause of the law.
“As of now we have made some observations regarding the tax declarations and there are some discrepancies but we cannot yet divulge the figures,” Guballa told members of the committee.
“We will be susceptible to charges if we just give information,” said Guballa.
Under Section 270 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended, BIR personnel cannot divulge information collected from taxpayers concerning the latter’s business, income or estate, as well as the secrets, operation, style or work, or apparatus of any manufacturer or producer, or confidential information regarding the business of any taxpayer.
However, Guballa said he will seek permission from the President to allow them to make public the information regarding Sereno’s tax declarations.
It is to be recalled that during a hearing against then sitting Chief Justice Renato Corona, then BIR chief Kim Henares, bared before the panel, the tax returns not only of Corona, but his wife and daughter.

Nothing was said about any bar to bare the tax returns of the Coronas.
Panel OKs subpoenae
But with the deputy BIR commissioner’s continued refusal, the committee eventually approved Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal’s motion to issue a subpoena directing the BIR to submit the initial findings.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso said the panel can cite Guballa in contempt as he maintained that the committee has the authority to compel the attendance of the witnesses and production of documents.
“So I request that the deputy commissioner please reconsider his point because this is what the Constitution provides. If you will not submit the required documents, I fear that you will be treading grounds of contempt,” said Veloso.
Quezon City Rep. Vincent Crisologo that there is nothing illegal or in violation of the law in case Guballa releases the findings of their inquiry to the Umali panel.
But Guballa stood pat on his position not to reveal the tax records of the chief justice. Gabulla said that the only exemptions to Section 70 of the Tax Code are the existence of a waiver from the taxpayer, order of a judicial court, and an ongoing Senate impeachment trial.
“As of the moment, we are just in the committee hearing on this. If on the impeachment court in the Senate then by all means we will provide them,” Guballa pointed out.
Impeachment complainant Atty. Larry Gadon, alleged that Sereno deliberately excluded in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) lawyer’s fees amounting to P37 million for representing the government in the case.
Sereno’s camp is strongly confident that any investigation into her tax records would prove that she had paid the corresponding taxes for the income she earned for serving as government counsel in the arbitration case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO).
“Chief Justice Sereno faithfully paid the tax due to her earnings covering the years 2004 to 2009 when she was the co-legal counsel of the Republic of the Philippines in the PIATCO case,” said lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokesmen.
Lacanilao maintained that Sereno had “accurately and properly” declared all her earnings or attorney’s fees from the PIATCO case, which could easily be verified.
He noted that records from the BIR would bear out that she paid all her taxes accurately to the tune of P8.67 million.
Lacanilao also took exception to insinuations by some members of the House committee on justice on the supposed “discrepancies” observed by the BIR with regard to Sereno’s tax records.
The lawyer said that while the Chief Justice could easily explain those discrepancies, it was quite alarming that some lawmakers were already “jumping into premature conclusions” that tend to violate her right to due process.
At the same time, Lacanilao said the tax probe on Sereno was a mere afterthought because it is being done only after the matter was brought up in the impeachment proceedings before the House justice committee.
“During the tax years and the years after that, not once did the BIR issued a letter of authority or a letter of notice to the Chief Justice to open her books for possible discrepancy or any question regarding her tax payment for that matter,” he explained.
According to Lacanilao, it is obvious that the justice panel is using all resources at its disposal to muddle the impeachment issue.
“Let it be known to the public that the tax filing of the Chief Justice is not part of the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Larry Gadon,” he said.
He added: “This is yet another desperate attempt to prop up the baseless allegations because the justice committee knows very that they don’t have a solid case to warrant the Chief Justice’s removal from office.”
Guballa provides panel copy
of CJ’s income declaration
Guballa however provided the committee a copy of Sereno’s income declaration from her Piatco fees which she filed with the Office of the Solicitor General.
In 2006, Sereno declared income from Piatco in the amount of P1,396,631 of which P209,494 were withheld in taxes; 2007 income of P3,633,076.42 with P544,961.46 in taxes 2008 income of P4,559,308.24 with P683,896.24 in taxes.
Guballa also reported to the committee Sereno’s earnings from 2004 – 2008: (a) P7,207,513.56 in 2004; (b) P12,367,562.36 in 2005; (c) P1, 396,631 for 2006; (d) P3,633,076.42 for 2007; (e) P4,559,308.24 in 2008
Sereno also declared that over P8.7 million was paid in taxes – P14.7 million used on medical expenses and the purchase of a house and vehicle, and the remaining P6.9 million was used for family expenses from 2004 to 2009.
Deputy Speaker, Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia noted that taken together these amounts do not add up to the P30 million earning that Sereno admitted having received for her work in the Piatco case.
Garcia said that a simple mathematical computation of the facts and figures presented to the committee disproves Sereno’s answers.
“The Chief Justice is once again found lying,” Garcia said.
In her verified answer, Sereno said she received payment of P30 million for the Piatco case and paid P8.67 million to government as taxes.
In his complaint, lawyer Larry Gadon said Sereno is guilty of graft and betrayal of public trust when she allegedly excluded in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) lawyer’s fees amounting to P37 million for representing the government in the Piatco case.
2 SC justices snub House hearing
Meanwhile, SC Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen, and Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 Presiding Justice Juanita Guerrero refused to attend at yesterday’s hearing.
Bernabe and Leonen were invited to the hearing to shed light on the allegation in the impeachment complaint that Sereno hired IT consultant Helen Macasaet “with an excessive compensation and without public bidding.”
Panel chair, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali said they received a joint letter from Bernabe and Leonen informing the committee that they could not attend the hearing, and that they were designated as vice chairpersons of the Committee on Computerization and Library (CCL) after its reorganization on July 4, 2014, long after Macasaet was hired in October 2013.
Guerrero, meanwhile, was invited as resource speaker on the allegation that Sereno ordered Muntinlupa judges not to issue a warrant of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima in connection with her drug charges.
OCA Exec denies calling judges to issue arrest warrant
During the hearing, Fabros-Corpuz and Manalastas-de Leon denied several times that they were ordered by Sereno not to issue warrants of arrest against de Lima.
“Not true,” Fabros-Corpuz told members of the panel.
Gadon has accused Sereno of high crimes when she allegedly “obstructed justice by ordering the Muntinlupa judges not to issue warrants of arrest against de Lima.”
“I have not received any instruction to that effect, either directly or indirectly,” said Manalastas-de Leon.
“Personally, I did not receive any instruction from the Chief Justice to call any of the judges handling the case against Senator de Lima,” said MCRTC Deputy Court Administrator Jenny Lind Aldecoa-Delorino.


Solon: Reclassify ‘Internet access’ as basic commodity

Saturday, 17 February 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

A lawmaker from Makati  yesterday urged the government to reclassify “Internet access” as a basic commodity.
According to Rep. Luis Jose Angel N. Campos Jr., doing so would give more teeth to regulators to compel telecommunications firms to provide higher connection speeds under pain of severe punitive fines.
At present, the Philippines has the slowest average Internet connection speed in Asia, according to Akamai Technologies Inc.
Under House Bill 5337, Campos wants Internet access tagged as a basic service so that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) may be empowered to regulate both the quality and the cost of the service.
The bill seeks to amend the 23-year-old Philippine Public Telecommunications Policy Law which treats Internet access as a “value-added service,” meaning  suppliers may provide the service on their own terms.
Meanwhile, Campos said  the country’s third telecommunications service provider could eventually have a “market value” of up to P300 billion.
“There is room for the new entrant to come in, simply because there is pent-up demand for faster mobile phone Internet connection speeds among Filipinos,” Campos, a deputy minority leader, said.
“This unusually strong demand is not being fully satisfied because neither of the two existing players is willing to supply the superior connection speeds at a lower price,” the lawmaker said.
Campos added P300 billion is around the range of the current market values of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc.
As of February 15, PLDT and Globe had market values of P336 billion and P240 billion, respectively, based on the closing prices of their common shares at the Philippine Stock Exchange.
Market value, or market capitalization in the case of publicly traded companies such as PLDT and Globe, refers to the price that the market is willing to pay for an asset.
Campos earlier had backed the government’s resolve to give preferential treatment to the third player, saying it is “absolutely justified” to drive market competition and give Filipinos access to faster and cheaper Internet connection speeds.
The new entrant is expected to be formed and named by the end of next month, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Campos also welcomed the DICT’s plan to adopt a common tower policy.
“The idea is not new. In America, they actually have a large company engaged only in the business of owning and operating wireless and broadcast communications towers,” he pointed out.
He was referring to American Tower Corporation, a New York Stock Exchange-listed firm that belongs to the S&P 500 Index.
Common towers will work as long as these are run by an independent company, Campos said.


PCSO chief defends P6.4-M party, but still in deep debt

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) General Manager Alexander Balutan yesterday maintained that the P6.4 million used in his agency’s Christmas party was appropriate.

Balutan said that the party was meant to reward the employees for the hard work in reaching the record-high revenue last year.
“I think considering our current situation, with the prices rising, I think it’s the appropriate (party expenses),” Balutan told the House committee on good government chaired by Surigao City Rep. Johnny Pimentel.
“Come to think of it, what they did in one year, how many billions have they earned, so it’s a booster for the morale and welfare of our employees,” Balutan said.
Pimentel, however, said officials of the PCSO who were behind the approval of the P10 million cash advance that Balutan requested for the party based on the documents presented by PCSO board member Sandra Cam during the hearing could have violated laws.
“I see that there are violations of existing laws. There is never any provision that says you can make any cash advance, especially on this P10 million, to spend on the Christmas party,” Pimentel said.
The Commission on Audit (CoA) memorandum circular provides that P10,000 is the maximum in cash advances.
Pimentel also considered as a waste of government money the P16,389 that the PCSO allegedly spent for the thanksgiving Mass.
“The chair agrees that this is a waste of government money. I can see that there has been a violation of existing laws. First, you can’t use government money to give to the Church,” said Pimentel.
From P14 million, the budget for the controversial PCSO party was reduced to P6.4 million from the P10.6 million cash advances.
But Cam, the whistle-blower, said only P10.27 million out of the P10.68 million cash advances had been accounted for.
At the resumption of the hearing conducted by the House committee on good government, Balutan said the P6.4 million budget for the party is not extravagant as compared to the hardships of the employees in attaining the revenues of P52 billion for 2017 which was actually more than its target revenue of P30 billion.

It was Board member Sandra Cam who denounced the Christmas Party describing it as too lavish for an agency involved in charity works., who turned emotional yesterday, who complained about the lavish party.
Balutan however said while the original proposal for the party held in Shangri-La on December 19 was P14 million, they were able to reduce it to P6.4 million.
“I believe they have the right to be treated to some sort of reward after a year of hardwork, at least to experience to spend some time in an airconditioned venue. I believe they deserve that,” said Balutan.
“If we are to evaluate them, we would see the billions of pesos they have made possible for the agency to earn so it’s a booster for the morale and welfare of our employees,” he added.
Balutan further explained to the members of the committee that the amount is reasonable considering the higher cost of food and other expenses.
Cam tried to appeal on the emotions of the lawmakers as she claimed she had made sacrifices in trying to expose what she described as a lavish party.
She presented itemized expenses of the party which included P16,389 the PCSO spent for the thanksgiving mass held on the same day of the party.
At the same hearing, it was bared that despite the billions of pesos it earns annually, PCSO is still deep into the red with a debt amounting to P16 billion.
This was according to Charlie “Atong Ang” as he pointed out that it was the small town lottery (STL) that is losing large amount of PCSO revenues.
Ang is a suspected illegal gambling operator until he was tapped by President Rodrigo Duterte as a consultant of the PCSO.
Like Cam, Ang accused the PCSO as the one of the most corrupt agencies in the government.
Contrary to Balutan’s claim PCSO earned P52 billion last year, Ang said the agency has accrued losses of P16 billion since 2014.
Balutan, while refusing to comment on the debt, insisted on the figures he presented as PCSO’s earning last year, stressing that of the P52 billion, P15.7 billion came from STL.
Ang, who failed to produce evidence to substantiate his claim, added that the PCSO remitted .25 percent of the STL earnings to lawmakers as their share.
While some lawmakers denied receiving any share from the STL, Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop admitted receiving a check from PCSO amounting to P1,600 last month as a share from STL.
He however added he returned the check because he doesn’t tolerate STL in his district and because the agency did not specify how it will be liquidated.
Panel chair Pimentel asked the PCSO a list of congressmen receiving shares from STL.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said there should be no malice imputed on giving money to congressional districts since these were being used for charity projects.
“STL is being operated in our province. if there’s any province that can be used as a model for a successful STL operation its our province. I don’t deny that there is amount that’s being given to each congressional district…there should be no malice on the fact that certain amount was also given to the people for their needs like burial, medical and other assistance,” Suarez said.


Time for CJ to quit

24-03-2018 Ninez Cacho-Olivares

Time for CJ to quit

Whether or not Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and her sup...

Fujimori family feud spurred Kuczynski r…

24-03-2018 AFP and Tribune Wires

Fujimori family feud spurred Kuczynski resignation

Lima, Peru — Five centuries after brothers Atahualpa an...

Weak defense

23-03-2018 Ninez Cacho-Olivares

Weak defense

  Supreme Court Chief Justice on indefinite leave Lour...

Ahead of Egypt vote, most Christians put…

23-03-2018 AFP and Tribune Wires

Ahead of Egypt vote, most Christians put faith in Sisi

Cairo, Egypt — On the streets of Cairo’s Shubra distric...

Finally, truth may be bared

22-03-2018 Ninez Cacho-Olivares

Finally, truth may be bared

They can deny it until they are blue in the face, but t...

Abortion, free speech in spotlight at to…

22-03-2018 AFP and Tribune Wires

Abortion, free speech in spotlight at top US court

Washington, United States — US Supreme Court justices f...






Life Style




Unit 102, 1020 Bel-Air apartment, Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila Copyright 2000-2017 All rights reserved, The Daily Tribune Publishing Inc.