BIR steps up pressure on Stradcom to pay tax debts

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BUREAU of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares on Wednesday said Stradcom Corp., the information technology (IT) provider of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), cannot use as an excuse the internal wrangling among its owners to evade payment of its tax debts.

“We are collecting. As far as we are concerned, we are not part of their problem,” said Henares, who announced on Tuesday that they had garnished the accounts of Stradcom after it failed to settle its income tax obligation of P317 million for year 2011.

Henares explained that under the National Internal Revenue Code, the agency can seize personal property and bank accounts of delinquent taxpayers.

Based on this, the bureau issued a warrant of distraint/levy against Stradcom on July 31.


In an interview, Henares said the bureau is bent on compelling Stradcom to pay its taxes regardless of who owns the company.

She distanced herself from the interpleader case involving claimants of the IT company.

On July 29, or two days before the garnishment of Stradcom’s money, The Manila Times broke the story about the “missing” P317-million tax dues of Stradcom.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) approved the release of P1 billion to Stradcom in January, of which P317 million would have gone to the BIR.

Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres said the P1 billion was released so Stradcom could settle its tax dues. The money came from the P4.2 billion Stradcom account that was put in escrow.

A check made by The Times revealed that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya, Torres, DOTC Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Jose Perpetuo Lotilla and Land Bank of the Philippines President Gilda Pico worked for the release of the P1 billion to be withdrawn from the Land Bank.

Questions raised
On Monday, The Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dr. Dante Ang wrote an article questioning the propriety of Abaya’s memo that was later used as basis to release the funds in escrow.

Abaya had claimed that the funds were released because the DOTC “was made aware of only one case, an intra-corporate dispute involving Sumbilla and Quiambao in a Pangasinan court which was dismissed by the court and was then pending appeal before the CA.”

“Furthermore, the case was an intra-corporate dispute with Stradcom on part of government. Case was clearly an internal dispute. Furthermore, there was no restraining order or injunction preventing payment. There was a need to release funds for the service provider is essential for the provision of public services. DOTC certainly did not want public service to suffer because of an intra-corporate dispute that had absolutely no bearing on government’s contractual obligation to pay.”

In his article, Dr. Ang said Abaya wrote in his Nov. 21, 2012 memorandum to President Benigno Aquino 3rd that “while the escrow account was previously under litigation and a restraining order issued by the court, the case has since been dismissed. The case is now pending with the Court of Appeals but is not the subject of any restraining order. Therefore, no judicial intervention or notice is necessary for the release of these monies.”

But contrary to the assertion of Abaya that “the case has since been dismissed,” an interpleader suit is still pending at the Quezon City special commercial court and litigation is still ongoing.

Following a bitter intra-corporate dispute between the Quiambao and Sumbilla groups in 2011, Torres filed an interpleader before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to determine the rightful directors and officers of Stradcom.

In its August 23, 2011 resolution, the Supreme Court upheld the filing of the interpleader suit while noting the “underlying corporate dispute” in Stradcom. The high court then ordered the re-raffling of the case to a special commercial court in Quezon City RTC for resolution of the pending intra-corporate dispute.

The Court dismissed Quiambao’s motion for reconsideration with finality on January 24, 2012.

Abaya defended
Malacañang officials, meanwhile, were guarded in their reaction to the issue and sounded defensive of Abaya’s issuance of the memo.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said he was not familiar with the controversy.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad vouched for Abaya’s integrity.

Abaya “is an upright person. He doesn’t hoodwink people, much less the President,” he said in a text message to the Times.

Secretary Herminio Coloma said he could not comment for lack of sufficient knowledge about the matter.

WITH A REPORT FROM CATHERINE VALENTE

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