CIGARETTE maker Mighty Corp. on Friday assured the public it would fully cooperate with government authorities after President Rodrigo Duterte urged it to pay P5 billion in tax deficiencies amid accusations it used counterfeit tax stamps on cigarette packs.
In a statement, Sigfried Fortun, legal counsel of Mighty Corp., said the Mighty would do its best to address the issue and achieve the government’s tax collection goal.
“Anything to help the government achieve its tax and social upliftment activities will be fully supported by Mighty Corp. Following President Duterte’s comment on ways to address the tax issues besetting the company, it will continue to cooperate with the government to bring quick closure to them,” Fortun said.
Last March 7, the owner and lawyer of Mighty Corp., Alexander Wongchuking personally went to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd to deny any wrongdoing over allegations they tried to bribe the President.
On March 8, the Department of Justice issued an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) against Mighty officials to monitor their movements.
Fortun said that his clients were willing to undergo legal processes.
“My clients do not intend to leave the country. They are ready to face any possible complaints. But as of now, there is no complaint filed against them. [The ILBO is part of the entire process,” Fortun said.
DoF firm on tax case
On Friday, the Finance department said it would pursue a tax evasion case against Mighty Corp. despite a pronouncement by President Duterte that he was open to a compromise settlement.
“There’s no settlement. How can we settle? We don’t know the total amount due yet,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd told reporters at the sidelines of a tax reform forum.
On Thursday, President Duterte called on Mighty to pay the government P3 billion—which he later modified to P5 billion—as compromise settlement, after revealing that the cigarette manufacturer offered to pay P1.5 billion.
Dominguez said the Bureau of Internal Revenue was still determining the correct amount, adding that lawyers for the cigarette manufacturing firm were “obstructing” government efforts to look into its business activities.
Dominguez was referring to the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by Branch 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, which prevents the Bureau of Customs from conducting raids or inspections at the warehouses of Mighty for a period of 20 days, or from March 3 to 23, 2017.
“We are moving very quickly to lift the TRO. We have already discussed this with the Executive Secretary and the Department of Justice. We will even go to the Supreme Court if necessary to lift that TRO,” he said.
“And of course as soon as we get all the evidence, we will file a case. That is our duty. It is not a question whether we want or not, it is our duty to do so,” he added.
The Action for Economic Reforms (AER) urged Duterte to implement existing laws in dealing with Mighty’s tax evasion case.
“Amnesty is bad policy. It will send a wrong signal and encourage bad behavior, not only to Philip Morris and other tobacco companies, but also among other corporations and taxpayers,” said Jo-Ann Diosana, AER senior economist and trustee.
“If the law is followed, Mighty must pay as much as P15 billion in taxes and fines which can build and repair even more hospitals nationwide for the impoverished Filipinos. The compromise amount is way below P15 billion,” said Diosana. JOMAR CANLAS AND MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO