Senators hit BIR: 'Ang luwag sa POGO, ang lupit sa Pilipino'

Instead of targeting online sellers, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) should go after notorious Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), said two senators on Thursday, June 11.

The BIR had issued a circular telling Filipinos engaged in online businesses to register by July 31, declare their past transactions, and pay the right taxes.

But senators Risa Hontiveros and Joel Villanueva questioned why the BIR is choosing to focus on entrepreneurs with small businesses instead of POGOs with huge tax liabilities.

"Imbes na online sellers, baka puwedeng singilin muna ang mga POGO na may P50 billion in unpaid taxes? Hindi yung dagdag-perwisyo pa sa sarili nating mga kababayan na kaunti na nga lang ang kita para pandagdag-gastos sa pamilya nila," Hontiveros said.

(Instead of going after online sellers, why don't we demand payment from POGOs who have P50 billion in upaid taxes? We shouldn't add to the burden of our fellow Filipinos who are earning a little extra for their families.)

"Bakit ba ang luwag natin sa POGO, pero ang lupit sa mga Pilipino?" Hontiveros asked. (Why are we lenient toward POGOs, but harsh to Filipinos?)

Villanueva also pointed out that the government has been at a disadvantage because of POGOs' unpaid taxes.

"Unahin po natin 'yung mga napatunayan nang atrasado sa pagbabayad ng buwis. Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin nababayaran ng mga POGO ang utang nito na P50 bilyon na buwis sa atin. Sila ang dapat tinututukan ng BIR," he said.

(We should prioritize those proven to have been delayed in paying taxes. Until now, POGOs haven't paid taxes worth P50 billion to the government. The BIR should be focusing on them.)

Both Hontiveros and Villanueva had asked the government to suspend POGO operations, after marathon hearings on the "pastillas" bribery scheme at immigration checkpoints in airports.

Villanueva said the BIR should give online sellers the same leeway POGOs received.

"Ang dami nang pagkakataon ang ibinibigay ng gobyerno sa mga POGO para ituwid ang kanilang operasyon. Malinaw po na winawaldas lang nila itong pagkakataon. Ganitong pagkakataon po dapat ang ibinibigay rin natin sa mga mamamayan natin, lalo na sa mga online sellers na nakikipagsapalaran ngayon," he said.

(The government has given a lot of chances to POGOs to correct their operations. It's clear that they did nothing. We should give the same opportunities to fellow Filipinos, especially the online sellers who are taking chances now.)

This BIR rule comes as government revenues plunged because of the 3-month quarantine restrictions.

Online businesses and delivery services boomed as millions of Filipinos were told to stay at home.

Earlier, the Department of Trade and Industry reminded online vendors to display prices, instead of asking customers to send a private message. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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