President Rodrigo Duterte has directed his legal team to study possible charges against the owners of the tobacco company Mighty Corp.
“I’ve been instructed to study, prepare a case against the Mighty cigarettes’ [owner]. I’ve been in coordination with the BIR Commissioner [Caesar Dulay],” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters in a chance interview, referring to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Panelo said criminal charges could still be filed against Mighty Corp. even after it settles its tax liabilities with the government.
“Other than law, civil liability can be settled. Criminal prosecution will have to proceed,” he added.
The President’s adviser noted that there are two separate cases against Mighty Corp.
“They are supposed to pay some taxes. They have avoided that, then we can prosecute them for that. With the respect to the discovery of false tax stamps, that’s another case,” he said.
Duterte earlier said he is willing to absolve the owners of Mighty Corp. in connection with their tax liabilities if they double their tax deficit worth P1.08 billion to P3 billion.
Panelo said the President makes “a statement subject on what the law says.”
“As I said in our press briefing, when the President makes a statement, it is based on what the law says so any positions or conditions imposed by law will be followed by the President,” he added.
The President’s lawyer said the Department of Justice would still be the lead agency but he would coordinate with them.
Duterte said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) during the Aquino administration had discovered the tax evasion by Mighty Corp. but the “previous administration has ignored” it.
“I understand that they [BIR] have prepared even prior to the discovery of false tax stamps, which the previous administration has ignored. [The tax-evasion case was] supposed to be filed against Mighty [Corp.] but it laid there for a while,” Panelo said.
The President had ordered the arrest of the Mighty Corp. owners for “economic sabotage” for allegedly using fake cigarette tax stamps.
The Bureau of Customs earlier said it was eyeing a P1-billion tax evasion case against the company.
The day Duterte ordered the arrest of the Mighty Corp. owners, the company’s president Alex Wong Chu King met with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd and National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran over the allegations, and vowed to cooperate with authorities.
Wong Chu King, however, could not be arrested because there is no case filed against him yet.
He is now facing an impending tax evasion case for failure to pay the right excise tax from the imports it made from 2011 to 2013.