Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC upholds acquittal of retired general, wife from tax evasion case

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SC upholds acquittal of retired general, wife from tax evasion case

HIGH COURT. The Supreme Court building in Padre Faura, Manila.

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The High Court says it 'finds that there was nothing capricious, whimsical, or even arbitrary in the CTA's ruling that the prosecution failed to establish accused-respondents' guilt beyond reasonable doubt'

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed the decision of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) that acquitted retired Lieutenant General Jacinto Ligot and wife Erlinda on tax evasion charges.

In a 20-page decision penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, the High Court’s Third Division affirmed the CTA ruling that cleared the couple of four counts of tax evasion case over under-declaration of income from 2001 to 2004 amounting to P458 million. The High Court also said the CTA did not commit grave abuse of discretion in junking the case against the couple.

The case stemmed from the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) probe into the former generals’ book of accounts. The said books contained real and personal properties of the couple acquired during the taxable years of 2001 and 2004.

The list included parcels of land, condominium units, a vehicle, and bank deposits, among others. The investigation showed that the couple’s acquisition of the said properties, bank deposits, and investments were disproportionate to what they declared in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and Income Tax Return.

In affirming the CTA’s Third Division’s ruling, the SC said that it “resolved the case only after all the evidence was considered, weighed, and passed upon.”  

“In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that there was nothing capricious, whimsical, or even arbitrary in the CTA’s ruling that the prosecution failed to establish accused-respondents’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the SC said.

The CTA Third Division, in its ruling dated January 8, 2019, said the prosecution failed to prove that Ligot couple are guilty of violating section 254 (Attempt to Evade or Defeat Tax) and section 255 (Failure to File Return, Supply Correct and Accurate Information, Pay Tax Withhold and Remit Tax and Refund Excess Taxes Withheld on Compensation) of the National Internal Revenue Code or the Tax Code.

The prosecution’s theory in the criminal charges were founded on the alleged existence of the couple’s bank deposits and other financial affairs. But, the prosecution’s evidence, which includes bank statements, have been excluded by the law – thus, inadmissible.

In addition, the tax court said exceptions to the bank secrecy laws cannot be extended to tax evasion cases. It added the evidence submitted against the couple have either been excluded or were found to have insufficient probative value because of the prosecutors’ failure to establish the evidence’s authenticity and execution.

In October 2019, the CTA also denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the BIR and the Department of Justice. – Rappler.com

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