Sereno paid P8.67-M tax due her earnings as gov’t counsel

MANILA — The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday reiterated that she had paid the corresponding taxes for the income she earned as government counsel in the arbitration case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO)

Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said the top magistrate had “accurately and properly” declared all her earnings or attorney’s fees from the PIATCO case, which could easily be verified.

“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,” Lacanilao said in a statement.

“The issue is a non-starter. Lahat ng kailangang bayaran, binayaran ni Chief Justice. Wala po silang makikitang tax evasion (The Chief Justice has paid her taxes and she did not commit tax evasion),” he pointed out.

He noted that records from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) would bear that she paid all her taxes accurately to the tune of PHP8.67 million.

Lacanilao also took exception to insinuations by some members of the House Committee on Justice on the supposed “discrepancies” observed by the BIR as regards Sereno’s tax records.

May mga conclusion na pero hindi pa tapos ang investigation. Wala pa man ding reply si Chief Justice, may mga conclusion na (There is already a conclusion despite the fact that the investigation is not yet done. While the Chief Justice has yet to reply, there are already conclusions),” he lamented.

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.

Nakababahala na mayroon na silang conclusion, nawala na ang due process (It so alarming that they already have a conclusion but there was no due process),” he said.

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.”

He noted Gadon once again committed perjury after three trial court judges belied his accusation that they were ordered by the top magistrate not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila De Lima last year.

“The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Atty. Gadon had completely made up his allegation,” Lacanilao said.

Gadon, in his complaint, accuses Sereno of supposedly “instructing” Deputy Court Administrator Jenny Lind Aldecoa-Delorino to call Muntinlupa regional trial court judges Juanita Guerrero, Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Patria Manalastas-De Leon not to issue warrants of arrest against De Lima.

However, Corpuz and De Leon testified before the House Committee on Justice that nobody from the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice and Delorino, called them to give such instruction.

Likewise, Delorino testified that Guerrero, who was absent at the committee hearing, also told her she did not receive any instruction to issue a warrant of arrest against the senator.

Delorino also told the committee that she was not instructed by the Chief Justice regarding De Lima’s case.

Lacanilao said Gadon’s accusation was “without any basis whatsoever.”

“This is a barefaced lie,” Lacanilao stressed. “The Chief Justice has never spoken to any of these three judges on this matter, and neither did she instruct any Supreme Court official to instruct the judges to not issue a warrant of arrest.”

“This accusation is plainly and simply perjurious and should not merit any further consideration,” he added.

Lacanilao noted that De Lima was arrested and is presently detained at the Camp Crame Custodial Center in Quezon City on drug-related charges.

All three judges eventually issued separate warrants of arrest against De Lima.

Following the denial of the judges, committee chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali put to task Gadon to substantiate his allegation so as not to waste the time of the panel.

Earlier in the impeachment proceedings, Umali also warned that Gadon may face perjury raps after Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro denied releasing information to a reporter that Gadon had cited as evidence in his impeachment complaint.

Sereno’s legal team has long expected Gadon would perjure himself multiple times because he does not have solid and strong evidence to support his complaint.