Mighty Corporation takes up Duterte's offer to pay P3B

MANILA, Philippines – Mighty Corporation has taken up the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to pay P3 billion to the government and have their tax liabilities forgotten.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told reporters on Wednesday, March 15, that Mighty Corporation owner Alexander Wongchuking has written the Office of the President about their willingness to pay the settlement price.

The cigarette manufacturer owes the government P1.5 billion in unpaid taxes due to fake tax stamps. Duterte earlier announced he wanted Wongchuking arrested for economic sabotage. Aguirre maintained, however, that Wongchuking cannot be arrested without charges.

Duterte dared the Wongchukings to double their debt, telling them through the media on March 9: "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."

Aguirre said that Wongchuking indicated in his letter to the President that the P3 billion be used to build hospitals in Basilan and Jolo, Sulu, and renovate Mary Johnston Hospital in Manila, as earlier suggested by Duterte himself.

"Sumulat sila sa Pangulo at sinabi nila na handa silang tumalima sa kagustuhan ng Pangulo na magbayad ang Mighty although dahil medyo malaki-laki ang pera, kung puwede P1 billion muna and then yung balance uutay-utayin," Aguirre said.

(They wrote the President and told him they are ready to follow what he wants, that they pay, but because it's a huge amount, they requested to make a downpayment of P1 billion and pay the balance on installment.)

Cleared?

Aguirre clarified the government could still pursue the tax evasion cases against Mighty Corporation.

In his March 9 interview, Duterte assured the Wongchukings that if they are charged despite paying the P3 billion, he would use his power to clear them.

"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.

The Bureau of Customs earlier ordered a preventive suspension of Mighty Corporation's importation, after customs and tax operatives seized 11,044 master cases of Mighty cigarettes worth P215 million in General Santos City and 62,200 master cases worth P1.98 billion in San Simon, Pampanga.

A Manila court has since granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the raids on Mighty Corporation factories. – Rappler.com