BIR reveals ‘discrepancies’ in CJ Sereno’s tax records

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Monday said it has found some “discrepancies” in the tax records of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno.

During the continuation of the impeachment hearing, BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa, however, declined to reveal his initial findings before the House Committee on Justice.

“We have made some observations, findings on the tax declarations of the Chief Justice, and there are some discrepancies, but we cannot yet divulge the figures,” Guballa said.

“We are still waiting for the approval of the Office of the President wherein we are barred by Section 270 of the Tax Code,” Guballa said.

On February 7 the House Committee on Justice ordered the BIR to investigate the earnings and income tax returns of Sereno when she worked as legal counsel of the government in the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) case.

“We will be susceptible to charges if we just give information,” Guballa said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Henry S. Oaminal of the Second District of Misamis Occidental has moved for the issuance of subpoena duces tecum to secure the findings of the BIR probe.

“We have to issue a subpoena duces tecum so that the BIR also has some documents to immediately consult their legal adviser, which is the Office of the Solicitor General, and that would trigger the immediate procurement of the documents,” Oaminal said.

For his part, Rep. Vincent P. Crisologo of the First District of Quezon City said there is nothing illegal if the BIR will release its findings.

“This is not an unlawful revelation because this is an impeachment hearing. It cannot be unlawful. What prevents you from giving those data is if it is unlawful. But this is not unlawful,” Crisologo said.

But House Justice Committee Chairman Reynaldo V. Umali of Oriental Mindoro reminded members of the lower chamber to read the tax code provisions to understand the BIR.

In the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, the complainant said Sereno misdeclared some P37-million earnings for serving as legal counsel in an arbitration case and that she did not pay the corresponding taxes.

According to Gadon, the  Chief Justice earned P37 million in defending the government in an arbitration case against Piatco.

However, Sereno, in her verified reply, said she earned P30 million and not P37 million in the Piatco cases.

The impeachment complaint filed by Gadon contains four grounds, including corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes. The complaint also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged against the Chief  Justice.




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