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MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor and presidential candidate Isko Moreno promised to run after the estimated P200 billion in real estate tax debt incurred by the Marcos family which five administrations have failed to collect.
“I will make sure I will implement the decision of the Supreme Court, G.R. 120880, June of 1997 na may isang pamilya na pinagbabayad ng estate tax (where one family was made to pay estate tax). As we speak, it’s about P200 billion already,” said Moreno on Monday, February 28, during a press briefing in Manila.
The SC decision Moreno was referring to ordered the Marcoses to pay a tax liability of P23.29 billion. But penalties that have accumulated in the decades that Marcos heirs failed to pay the debt have caused the amount to reach P203 billion, according to retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio in a September 2021 Inquirer column.
“Death is certain but not the payment of estate taxes. Ferdinand Marcos died 32 years ago on Sept. 29, 1989. His heirs – Imelda, Bongbong, Imee, and Irene – did not file the estate tax return with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) as required by law. Neither did they pay any estate tax,” wrote Carpio.
“Kailangan magbayad sila ng buwis (They have to pay the tax),” said Moreno, who not once mentioned the surname “Marcos” during the press conference and subsequent door-stop interview.
He said he would use the billions of pesos as aid for Filipinos weathering the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now, if and if I become president, that money from that tax, which is not regular tax but estate tax… it’s now worth P200 billion. What if I used it for aid? Anyway, that’s your money,” he said in Filipino, to cheers from members of labor groups present at the press conference.
Though Moreno did not name the Marcoses, this campaign promise is his strongest statement against presidential race frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. In campaign sorties, the Manila Mayor has criticized the Marcos legacy as one that perpetuated “elitist” politics and governance. But even then, he refers to the influential clan, not by name but as “pulahan.” Red is Marcos Junior’s campaign color.
Failure of five administrations
Since the 1997 ruling, the Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino, and Duterte presidencies have failed to collect what the Marcos family owes the government.
How will Moreno succeed where so many have failed?
Moreno lacked the details of his plan but expressed conviction to carry it out.
“There is a decision they should pay, those people should pay, whoever they are. Kung siya ay collectibles na, dapat kolektahin (If they are collectibles already, they should be collected.),” said the 47-year-old presidential bet.
Asked by Rappler if his administration would file cases against his rival for the presidency, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for failure to pay those taxes, Moreno said the law would apply to all, rich or poor.
“Rights of every Filipinos will be respected under the law. In the same manner, I made a commitment to you as a citizen, I said there will be certainty and predictability under our watch and there is no poor, no middle class, no rich. And that goes to everyone, whoever they are,” he said.
Moreno had actually planned to mention his promise to run after the Marcos debt during the CNN Philippines debate on Sunday but he said there was “no opportunity” to do so.
Marcos Junior’s role
The P23 billion in the 1997 Supreme Court decision is the estate tax owed by the Marcoses from 1982 to 1986, as computed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), after the late dictator failed to file estate tax returns and several income tax returns.
The Marcos family contested the BIR’s deficiency assessment, but in 1994, the Court of Appeals said the BIR’s assessment “had become final and unappealable and may thus be enforced by the summary remedy of levying upon the properties of the late president.”
Marcos Jr., now running for president, went to the Supreme Court but the court, in 1997, denied his petition and upheld the 1994 ruling. The original P23 billion in dues is now estimated to have a value of P203 billion.
“The Marcos heirs simply ignored all the notices sent by the BIR. However, when the BIR served notices to the Marcos heirs that real properties in the name of Ferdinand Marcos would be auctioned off to pay the estate tax, Bongbong Marcos filed a petition with the Court of Appeals questioning the validity of the estate tax assessment on the flimsy ground that the BIR had no jurisdiction over the assets of the deceased Marcos because the assets were in the custody of the probate court,” wrote Carpio in September.
The huge debt was cited in one of the petitions to cancel Marcos Junior’s certificate of candidacy for president. The petition of the group represented by lawyer Ted Te reads: “To date, there is no showing that the Marcos heirs have paid the estate tax due. Furthermore, there is no document to show respondent Marcos, Jr.’s filing of an estate tax return and proper payment of taxes on the estate of his father, Marcos, Sr.” – Rappler.com