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BIR claims discrepancies in CJ’s tax declarations


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.


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