President Rodrigo Duterte is studying the filing of economic sabotage charges against the Prieto and Rufino families for their failure to pay the right taxes and refusal to vacate the controversial Mile Long commercial complex in Makati City.
In a speech during the 113th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Wednesday, Duterte said the Prieto and Rufino families have been illegally occupying Mile Long since 2003.
The Prieto and Rufino families control Sunvar Realty Development Corp. and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which they plan to sell to business tycoon Ramon Ang.
The President said the Prietos should settle the billions of pesos they owe the government and vacate the 2.9-hectare Mile Long property, which he plans to sell, the proceeds of which will be used to fund housing projects for the poor.
“Kung magsalita ang Inquirer, when they attacked us in government, it is as if we are really a band of robbers.
They have been holding the property for almost 50 years then they were able to negotiate. Pero wala na (But that’s the end), there’s no valid contract for Inquirer. They have to surrender it now because I need the money,” Duterte said.
“I can promise you. You have my word. This will be intended for the poor guys there. Maghanap ako ng lupa (I will search for a property) and build them something that they can call home. Yan ang plano ko [That’s my plan].
They must return everything, including an accounting of how much they collected all these years,” he said.
Duterte accused the Prietos and Rufinos of “swindling.”
“Abogado man tayo (I am a lawyer). The lease contract expired, you continue to lease it which is not yours, the property, and you continue to collect. So what does that mean? It means swindling on a large scale because that is money that you should surrender,” the President said.
“Magbayad ka doon sa BIR ng tama, doon sa may-ari ng lupa (Pay the right tax). Then if I could prove (this), which I am studying now, that that constitutes economic sabotage, then I will file cases against them for economic sabotage,” he added.
The National Power Corp. (Napocor) was the original owner of Mile Long. But it was leased to Sunvar for 25 years through the Philippine Development Alternatives Foundation.
Napocor, in 2002, informed the Foundation that it would no longer renew the contract.
But Sunvar argued that they have the exclusive option to extend the lease for another 25 years. The dispute reached the Court of Appeals in 2016, which ruled in favor of the real estate developer.