Duterte to Wongchukings: Pay double, I'll forget about it
MANILA, Philippines – If the owners of Mighty Corporation can pay double the worth of fake cigarette tax stamps, President Rodrigo Duterte will "forget" about their crime.
"I will forget about the printing of P1.5 billion worth of fake stamps. I will agree to this: Pay double, I'll forget about it," said Duterte on Thursday, March 9, during an interview with media in Davao del Sur.
He was addressing himself to Alex and Caesar Wongchuking, the very same persons he ordered arrested for using fake tax stamps on their products.
The Department of Justice has issued immigration lookout bulletin orders for them.
One of the brothers, said Duterte, offered to pay the government P1.5 billion in foregone revenue for the government due to the fake tax stamps.
Duterte was unimpressed by the offer.
"He offered P1.5 [billion] which is definitely unacceptable to me. There was deceit. So he needs to give double. He should offer P3 billion," said the President in Bisaya.
Allowing the Wongchukings to pay instead of go to jail for tax evasion does not go against any law, said Duterte.
"It can be settled if it's only tax liability, when you failed to pay your taxes, intentionally or unintentionally. You can settle it. The law allows settlements," he said.
He assured the Wongchukings that if someone else decides to pursue a case against them, he would use his power to pardon.
"I assure him that if someone in power pursues the case, I can always pardon him," said Duterte.
Money to go to hospitals
The President already has plans for the P3 billion.
He intends to allocate the money to improving hospitals in Basilan, Sulu, and Tondo in Manila.
"He should give P1 billion for Basilan. He should give it directly to the Secretary of Health, not to me, because I want to fix the hospital there. P1 billion for Jolo because I also want to fix the hospital there," said Duterte.
He specified that the remaining P1 billion should go to the improvement of the Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo.
"P3 billion and we're settled. Tell him," said Duterte.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been conducting raids on Mighty warehouses across the country, which yielded cigarette products bearing fake tax stamps.
The BOC had earlier said that it was eyeing a P1-billion tax evasion case against the company.
The day Duterte ordered the arrest of the Mighty Corporation owners, Alex Wongchuking met with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran over the allegations, and vowed to cooperate with authorities.
The company has denied smuggling and tax evasion allegations. (READ: Mighty Corp blames 'malfunctioning' BIR devices for 'fake' stamps) – Rappler.com