MANILA, Philippines – Counter punch? It’s only a matter of time.
World boxing champion and Sarangani Rep Manny Pacquiao is considering filing charges against Bureau of Internal Revenue officials who have filed a tax case against him.
At a press conference Monday, March 26, Pacquiao appeared with an army of lawyers.
His team said that the contempt charges filed against the lawmaker have tarnished his name and those responsible cannot be let off easily.
Pacquiao also asked President Benigno Aquino III to take off the officials in question from their position, saying they are roadblocks to his “matuwid na daan (straight path) campaign.”
“Nananawagan ako kay PNoy na yung mag ganyan mga tao especially yung director, dapat tanggalin na sa serbsiyo,” said Pacquiao. “Hindi nila alam kung anong ginagawa nila. Nakakasira yan sa reputation sa tamang daan. Binabaluktok hung regional director and tamang daan.” (I am asking the President to remove from public service people like that, especially the regional director. They have no idea what they’re doing. They are destroying the image of your ‘straight path’ campaign. The regional director is making it crooked).
Pacquiao was referring to regional XII BIR director, Rozil Lozares, who alleges discrepancies in Pacquiao’s 2010 earnings.
One of Pacquiao’s counsels, New Era University’s dean Abraham Espejo, accused the BIR of railroading the complaint against Pacquiao, depriving him of due process.
His lawyers will seek to declare the complaint, and consequently the case against him, as null and void.
Espejo claims that the letter of authority and subpoena were given to a certain Jocelyn Nibria, whose identity is not known to Pacquiao. Shortly after, the case was filed against him, said Espejo.
He said the process that led to the charges only took 4 months, without giving Pacquiao enough time to respond.
In addition, the BIR documents asking for compliance were allegedly delivered in General Santos, when the congressman could have been reached anytime in his office Batasan.
Pacquiao also said the subpoena was issued when he was in Las Vegas for his fight against Juan Manuel Marquez in November. He questioned why the BIR could not wait until he returned.
“The case is plain and simple harassment,” Pacquiao said.
Willing to fight
Espejo, evidently more riled up than his client, promised they would fight until the end, and are even willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
He said they are considering filing charges for violation of RA 3019, Section 3E but that it is up to Pacquiao who he wanted to target and when.
The section prohibits “any undue injury to any party, including the Government…through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.” The provision applies to officers and employees of offices or government corporations.
Espejo also urged the BIR to stop the negative campaign against Pacquiao.
“How unfair can you get, how cruel can you be?,” Espejo asked the public. “Please stop it. You’re not helping the country. He is one of the highest taxpayers in the country. He deserves respect.”
Pacquiao too promised he would fight until the “final round.”
If found guilty of tax evasion, Pacquiao can face up to 2 years in prison.
But the BIR has a different story.
BIR chief Kim Henares emphasized the case is not one of tax evasion, and said that the problem is plain and simple: Pacquiao had not yet complied with the subpoena, neglecting to submit all the documents asked of him.
“This is not a tax evasion case, this is just a case asking him to present documents,” said Henares. “What our people did, is we issued a letter of authority against him asking him to present some documents because we want to see if there’s an explanation for this or not… what is so difficult about presenting his contracts?”
Pacquiao maintained in the presser that his accountant went to submit the documents but the Lozares was not there. A few days later, the charges against him were announced to the media.
He said the documents have been submitted since.
Pacquiao also questioned the motives of Lozares and why the agency asked for his fight contracts, saying the only purpose he could see was to tax him again when he had already paid his necessary taxes in the U.S.
Henares countered that they only wanted to see that he had paid, as even taxes paid abroad should be reported.
The BIR commissioner also defended Lozares, saying she does not see any reason for him to invent anything and that historically, she has tended to believe her regional directors.
When asked about the allegations that Pacquiao had not received the subpoena and letters directly, she questioned the lawmaker’s statements.
“He is contradicting himself. How can you say you never received it, [if] the accountant lawyer went to the office?,” said Henares.
Pacquiao’s lawyers insisted that the unfair singling out of the fighter has had numerous consequences that could lead to even more negative effects.
They claimed that Pacquiao has lost a number of international endorsements worth millions of dollars, and stand to lose more due to the criminal charges.
When asked which endorsements however, his lawyers refused to give details.
Pacquiao too expressed disappointment, saying he had worked hard to build his reputation.
“Dugo at pawis ang naging puhunan ko para maging Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao na kinikilala sa buong mundo. Tinaya ko po ang aking buhay sa loob ng ring para makapagbigay ng karangalan sa Pilipino saan mang panig ng mundo (Blood and sweat have been my investment to become Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao who is known all over the world. I gambled my life inside the ring just to give pride to the Filipino people all over the world),” he said. “But in just one instance, the BIR has tarnished my name by filing a criminal case against me.”
He mentioned international headlines that implied he would soon follow American boxer Floyd Mayweather’s footsteps and be imprisoned as well, a comparison he disliked.
“I’d rather see Mayweather in the ring, not in jail,” he said.
Pacquiao said he addressed the issue now, before he starts training in April for his fight against Timothy Bradley in May, to avoid distractions. – Rappler.com