SINCE President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who is very much adored by the members of the yellow fever tribe, has spoken and boasted “I am not a thief” in a speech aired nationwide through virtually all radio and TV stations nationwide, it is up to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to justify his claim. If BIR chief Kim Henares could disclose the taxes paid not only of Mr. Aquino but more importantly those of his appointees, she will definitely boost the yellow fever tribes’ faith in their President no matter the amounts of taxes he has paid.
The President’s admirers will not be swayed by public opinion that goes against Mr. Aquino. To them, it does not matter how big or small their idol and his allies have contributed to the pork barrel funds that could have been used to bribe the senator-judges and congressmen prosecutors into removing Renato Corona as chief justice. What is important to the yellow fever adherents is they are their President’s bosses.
Yes, bribery may be as bad as stealing, and may even be worse when the briber uses other people’s money to obtain his or her agenda. Yet to the President’s fans, this does not matter at all because they probably will never distinguish the difference among stealing and bribing, and bribing with stolen money.
After all, with her policy of full transparency on the taxes paid by the Philippines’ very rich and famous, Henares has succeeded in exposing to unnecessary criticisms those who may have paid less when the public have expected some of them to land at the top of the BIR’s list of top tax payers in 2012. It may be too late to correct whatever wrong impressions BIR officials have caused some people, but it may not be too late for them to make amends in another way that would may not please some but may be welcomed by tax payers who have long suspected the administration—present and past—of picking on the country’s elite to show who really is boss.
What most Filipinos, including the rich, the very rich, and the very, very rich, and the poor, the very poor and the very, very poor, will prefer to see and read is a complete—not a partial report as the Commission on Audit (COA) has done in the case of the infamous pork barrel anomaly—report on the taxes paid by President Aquino appointees and their allies. With the numbers to be provided by Henares and other BIR officials, Filipinos will be able to judge who among them are really reporting their true worth. The administration and its allies may not like at all the negative reactions of the public whose faith in them may be diminished if the BIR will report the correct numbers.
It will be easy for Henares and company to find the names of President Aquino-anointed executives, who have been receiving more than many others. All they have to do is access COA’s report on government compensation. BIR officials may even want to go farther by not limiting their analysis on 2012 compensation, but go back to previous years. In this way, with the comparable annual numbers, they will be able to teach the executives in the employ of private companies a lesson or two on how to efficiently reduce their tax payments, despite their gargantuan annual pays and perks.
There is no need for Due Diligencer to name the highest paid government executives. To do so may be unfair to career officials who have been in the service for decades, but who have been underrated because of political favoritisms rewarding followers with government posts for “services rendered,” whatever these services are.
But to the public, it will be more interesting for them to know the formula used by BIR in computing taxes on individual compensation. Is the computation based on the gross compensation to include other pays perks, or is it limited to salaries or basic pays only?
As Due Diligencer wrote earlier in a piece on “Henares’ sin of omission,” a number of the country’s wealthiest families did not make it to the top of the list of big tax payers in 2012 because BIR did not consider the taxes it collected from them outside of their salaries. The piece pointed to dividends either in cash or in stock as one example the amounts of which may reach millions.
Will BIR disclose the taxes paid in 2012 by Mr. Aquino and his allies and appointees to lucrative government posts? The agony of waiting starts now.