CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno committed tax evasion by failing to pay at least P2 million worth of taxes stemming from her income as government counsel in the case against the NAIA Terminal 3 builder Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said on Tuesday.
BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa made the testimony during the House justice panel’s hearing on the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno.
“She has substantially declared all her income from the Piatco case from 2004 to 2009, but there were discrepancies. Our estimate on her tax deficiency is at P2,014 233.20,” Guballa said.
“This is tax evasion because under the Tax Code, [the prescriptive period is]10 years upon discovery of the fraud,” Guballa added.
He noted that the chief justice misdeclared her income from Piatco in her quarterly income tax returns six times, from 2005 to 2009, or prior to joining the Supreme Court in 2010 as one of the high court’s Associate Justices.
Sereno undervalued her Piatco income by P1.398 million in the 3rd quarter and P6.567 million in the fourth quarter of 2005, P1.539 million in the third quarter and P140,000 in the fourth quarter of 2006, P2.195 million in the third quarter and P633,000 in the fourth quarter of 2007, P4.139 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 and P42,691 in the first quarter of 2009.
“These are six violations; underdeclarations from 2005 to 2009. These documents would speak for themselves,” Guballa said.
He clarified that the P2-million tax liability was not a final number since the BIR’s investigation was not yet over.
“This P2 million is just an estimate because this does not include her other sources of income. We are still waiting for the copies of her income from UP [where she served as a professor in the UP College of Law for two decades]. We already wrote UP and we are yet to get a response,” Guballa said.
Sereno is facing an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, who is accusing her of not declaring her P37 million income as government counsel in the Piatco case in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Sereno’s camp earlier said her income from her stint as government counsel in the Piatco case was pegged at P30 million and that the chief justice declared it in her tax returns and the paid appropriate taxes.
Guballa, however, said that based on BIR records, Sereno earned P32 million out of the Piatco case—a figure less than the amount Gadon alleged but more than the declaration of the chief justice.
Jojo Lacanilao, a spokesman for Sereno, insisted that the chief justice paid the right taxes out of her Piatco income from 2004 to 2009, which amounts to P8.67 million.
“The chief justice did not receive any notice or letter from the BIR calling her attention in connection with her ITR (income tax return) filings within the prescriptive period and thereafter, debunking claims on the supposed discrepancy in her ITR filings made eight to 13 years ago,” Lacanilao said in a statement.