What's been happening to Jeane Napoles' case at tax appeals court?

MANILA, Philippines – Two recent resolutions from the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) come as bad news for Jeane Catherine Napoles as they push forward the tax evasion charges filed more than two years ago before the tax court.

On June 29, the CTA 3rd Division junked the motion to quash filed by Jeane, youngest daughter of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles. The 3rd Division is handling the criminal charges on trial.

It's a case that stemmed from the assessment of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), with the approval of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which found that Jeane did not pay P17 million in taxes.

According to the charges, Jeane failed to pay the taxes due for ownership of a luxurious apartment in Los Angeles, California and a farm lot in Bayambang, Pangasinan. (READ: Why the Napoles children are co-accused in the pork barrel scam)

Petition for review

Worse for Jeane, on June 21, the tax court's 2nd Division also junked her plea to hold a new trial on her petition for review. The case before the 2nd Division involves Jeane suing the BIR for an allegedly errant assessment.

The petition for review seeks to question the BIR findings which led to the charges. What Jeane wants to do is hold a separate trial which would put the BIR on the spot and try to hit at their case, hopefully to establish that the source of the charges is wrong.

Supposedly new evidence will be presented by Jeane in this new trial.

In her motion dated June 9, Jeane said there is a preliminary assessment notice from November 29, 2016 issued by the BIR to her mother Janet which "would reveal a glaring fact." Janet and husband Jaime also have a tax evasion case filed by the BIR during the term of former commissioner Kim Henares.

"It would show that (Janet Lim Napoles) is being charged the amount of US$1,280,000.00 for the value of the Ritz-Carlton Condo – 2011 – the same property that was assessed the petitioner by the respondent BIR," Jeane said in the motion.

The affidavits of her parents Janet and Jaime who said they own the properties – not their daughter – have always been part of Jeane's defense.

Jeane's evidence, the BIR's notice, was issued within the term of BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay, appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte. Another Duterte appointee in the BIR is Deputy Commissioner Lanee David, who used to be Jeane's lawyer in these said cases at the CTA. 

David has since withdrawn from the case, now replaced by young lawyer Ian Encarnacion.

Non-appearance of lawyer

The CTA is not taking notice of Jeane's supposed evidence, however, not because it bears no weight but because Jeane has lost her legal chance to officially present it in court.

The June 21 CTA resolution junked Jeane's petition because it is already considered a second motion for reconsideration, "which is a prohibited pleading under Section 2 of Rule 52 of the Rules of Court."

The first motion was already set for a pretrial conference on February 16 but Encarancion did not show up. Encarnacion instead sent a representative, who was already in the vicinity of the court premises at the time of the conference, but failed to find his way to the right conference room.

"Petitioner asserts that the mistake and excusable negligence of her counsel is of such a nature that ordinary prudence could not have guarded against and will work to the prejudice of her rights and cause of action," the resolution quotes Jeane's argument.

But the CTA could not be swayed. For one, the CTA said they had already postponed the hearings several times due to Encarnacion's requests. The CTA said Encarnacion should have had a "mindful attitude."

"It is hard to believe that it would entail extraordinary diligence for a counsel to appear at the date and time set by the Court several days before the schedule," CTA said.

The CTA also said: "On the ground of newly discovered evidence, this Court finds that the same has no legal leg to stand on as no evidence has yet been offered because the trial has not even started due to the several postponements that have characterized the proceedings of this case."

Rappler tried to reach Encarnacion but the lawyer said he is withholding comment until the case is resolved. 

Jeane has also tried the route of the Supreme Court (SC), similar to her mother Janet's strategies, but her petition for certiorari was dismissed by the High Court on August 17, 2015. The SC said then that Jeane failed "to sufficiently show that the questioned resolutions are tainted with grave abuse of discretion."

Jeane's travels

According to the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Jeane came back to the Philippines in 2015 to face her tax evasion charges, though a photo and insider information obtained by Rappler would show she was in the country in 2014.

She posted a P50,000 bail on April 1, 2015, was arraigned on July 20 and on September 9, and was allowed by the court to no longer personally appear in her hearings.

A year after, on September 15, 2016, she flew to the United Kingdom on an approved travel motion. She stayed there until October 6.

On April 23 this year, she was granted travel to Bali, Indonesia for a 6-day trip. Her travel motion indicated it was a business trip. Encarnacion had earlier told reporters, after a hearing on March 22, that Jeane was unemployed at the time. Her being jobless is their main support for her claim that she could not have earned taxable income to merit tax evasion charges.

Last June 18, Jeane was allowed to travel to Singapore and to stay there until June 27.

Jeane became controversial after being the subject of public scrutiny for her lavish living, with prevailing sentiments that the money which allowed her to sustain such a lifestyle was ill-gotten.

Her mother Janet is facing 5 plunder charges and 7 graft charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. She stands accused of allegedly illegally earning via commissions from the misuse of lawmakers' discretionary funds that were meant to help finance projects for basic sectors. – Rappler.com 

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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