THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) found discrepancies in the tax declarations of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno but did not disclose details because of a prohibition in the Tax Code, an official said on Monday.
BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa cited Section 270, which said:
“Any officer or employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue who divulges to any person or makes known in any other manner than may be provided by law information regarding the business, income or estate of any taxpayer, the secrets, operation, style or work, or apparatus of any manufacturer or producer, or confidential information regarding the business of any taxpayer, knowledge of which was acquired by him in the discharge of his official duties, will upon conviction for each act or omission, be punished by a fine of P50,000 to P100,000 or suffer imprisonment of two to five years, or both.”
“Mr. Chair, the BIR is of the belief that we cannot give the information on any finding [at this point]. There are exemptions namely: if there is waiver on the part of the individual concerned, by order of the judicial court or the Senate impeachment court during an impeachment trial. We are still in the committee hearing,” Guballa told the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives, which resumed the impeachment proceedings against Sereno.
One of the charges against Sereno filed by lawyer Larry Gadon was betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution because of her alleged failure to declare P37 million in income as legal counsel for the government in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco), NAIA Terminal 3 builder, in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
In her verified answer in her impeachment complaint, Chief Justice Sereno said she earned P30 million as government counsel for Piatco and that she has declared it in her SALN.
Guballa, however, clarified that the BIR would not stand in the way of prosecuting the Chief Justice.
“If the impeachment court issues us an order [to make our findings public], then by all means, we will provide them at the [impeachment]court,” Guballa said. LLANESCA T. PANTI