High-ranking BIR official axed for unexplained wealth

An assistant commissioner of the bureau was dismissed for lying in her SALN, accumulating wealth beyond her salary

STRING OF CASES. The government is going after corrupt officials and employees, as well as tax evaders to plug the holes in the country's tax system. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – An assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) was dismissed from service for unexplained wealth, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

Zenaida Chang, assistant commissioner of Financial and Administrative Services in charge of BIR’s budget and procurement, was found guilty of “serious dishonesty and gross neglect of duty” by the Ombudsman.

According to the Ombudsman’s 11-page decision, Chang and her husband had only P933,874 in total annual income in 2009, but they were able to acquire “significant and substantial” assets, including houses and lots in Felville Subdivision, Goldridge Estate and New Intramuros, and vehicles such as Pajero and Mercedes Benz.

“Construing spouses Chang’s acquisitions vis-à-vis their legitimate fixed incomes as of 1997, there is reason to believe that respondent Chang has consistently under-declared her and her husband’s true net worth to conceal their real wealth and hide the dubious nature of the undeclared sources of their disposable funds,” the decision read.

The Ombudsman further stated that “the loans obtained by the spouses Chang from various creditors are presented as defense to the charge of unlawful wealth acquisitions. Such defense would have been tenable if the couple’s net worth remained unchanged as the increase in assets would have been offset by the debts payable. The defense of respondent’s availment of ‘pay-when-able’ from liberal personal creditors is a matter too tenuous to believe considering their consistent spike in net worth despite the presence of these supposed personal loans.”

The Ombudsman issued a joint resolution recommending the filing of 8 counts of perjury against Chang for falsely declaring her yearly net worth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for the years 2000 to 2007.

The resolution also recommended the filing of forfeiture proceedings against her.

Chang’s dismissal, which takes effect immediately, includes the cancellation of her eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in government.

Chang started working at the BIR in 1987 as a revenue document processor with a salary of P18,636.00 per year. Prior to her transfer to the BIR, she held the position of chief accountant at the Professional Regulation Commission in 1974, with an annual salary of P30,636.00, according to DOF.

The DOF’s anti-corruption arm, Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), has been filing cases against corrupt BIR and Customs officials. The DOF-RIPS is urging the public to report corrupt practices and extravagant lifestyles of government officials and employees via www.perangbayan.com. – Rappler.com

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