House leaders back probe of BIR execs over alleged Del Monte tax liability reduction

MANILA — Several House leaders on Tuesday expressed their support to the proposed congressional investigation being called by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez against officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) over the alleged reduction of tax liabilities of a major company that supposedly resulted in PHP29-billion lost in potential revenues for the government.

Quirino Rep. Dakila “Dax” Cua, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe joined Alvarez in calling for an investigation on the matter in light of the plunder case filed before the Ombudsman against Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay and 17 other BIR officials and personnel for allegedly reducing the tax liabilities of Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI) for the period covering 2011 to 2013.

“I support Speaker Alvarez’s strong stance against corruption. We will study the matter thoroughly so that we can bring out the truth. Dapat maipaliwanag ng BIR ng mabuti kung bakit ganoon lang ang kanilang kinolekta. If not, they will be held liable,” said Cua, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Earlier reports said Alvarez was preparing a resolution to investigate Dulay and other BIR top officials not only for the case involving Del Monte Philippines but also for alleged irregularities in its actions and the cases filed against homegrown cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corp., which allegedly used fake tax stamps to evade payment of billions in excise taxes, as soon as Congress resumes its session later this month.

Based on reports, taxpayer Danilo Lihaylihay last month purportedly filed a plunder case before the Ombudsman against Dulay and 17 other BIR executives, including Dulay’s chief of staff Gaudencio Mendoza Jr., who allegedly allowed Del Monte to pay only PHP65.4 million for taxable years 2011 to 2013 despite the assessment for the three years reaching PHP29.6 billion in supposed tax deficiency liabilities.

Pimentel, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said the matter deserves a congressional scrutiny especially the government needs huge revenues for its social programs.

“We are ready to support the Speaker,” Pimentel said.

For his part, Batocabe said Congress should not allow possible tax leakage, the very problem in raising adequate revenues among tax-collecting agencies of the government.

“These are very serious allegations which must be looked into considering that government losses amounted to billions of pesos. Definitely, we need to plug this possible leakage in our tax collection system,” said Batocabe, president of the Party List Coalition (PLC).

Meanwhile, at the BIR, reports said that Deputy Commissioner Jesus Clint O. Aranas issued show-cause orders to 12 revenue personnel — Ofelia Yumang, Ruby Villanueva, Fatima Sarrosa, Exzaida Comentan, Lourdes Liwanag, Belinda Balagtas, Amelia Molinos, Noemi Castro, Cheryl Ann Adapon, Ramoncito Ona, Edralin Silario and Catalina Benedicto.

Aranas said that he issued the show-cause orders after the case before the Ombudsman surfaced “so they can justify their actions for our evaluation.”

A letter to President Rodrigo Duterte in May by the Tax Informers Network Inc. asked the President to prosecute for plunder, through conspiracy and connivance, Dulay, Mendoza and Assistant Commissioner Teresita Mendoza of the Large Taxpayers Service, among others.

In the meantime, Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (DMPL), the mother company of DMPI denied the allegations of tax irregularity against its subsidiary and presented its “correct and reasonable” audited taxable income during the questioned three-year period.

DMPL said the tax assessments on DMPI presented in news reports — based on the plunder complaint filed against the BIR officials before the Office of the Ombudsman — were “outrageous” when compared to its revenues from 2011 to 2013.

“For 93 years that it has been operating in the Philippines, DMPI has been a loyal corporate citizen and has been diligently paying its taxes,” the company said in a statement.

DMPL added that Del Monte Philippines “stands ready to fully cooperate in any government inquiry.”

For his part, Dulay vowed to make a statement on the matter to answer the allegations against them. Cielito M. Reganit/

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