CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is facing a tax evasion charge when she failed to pay at least P2 million in taxable income for her services as government counsel in the case against Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco), which built the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, an official of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said on Tuesday.
“She has substantially declared all her income from Piatco case from 2004 to 2009, but there were discrepancies. Our estimate on her tax deficiency is at P2,014, 233.20,” BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa testified during the impeachment proceedings against Sereno by the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives.
“This is tax evasion because under the Tax Code, [the prescriptive period is]10 years upon discovery of the fraud,” Guballa said.
Guballa also said the Chief Justice misdeclared her income from Piatco in her income tax returns (ITRs) from 2005 to 2009 or prior to joining the Supreme Court in 2010 as one of the High Court’s Associate Justices.
Based on her ITRs vis-a-vis records from the Office of the Solicitor General, Sereno undervalued her Piatco income by P1.398 million in the 3rd quarter and P6.567 million in the fourth quarter of 2005; P1.539 million in the third quarter and P140,000 in the fourth quarter of 2006; P2.195 million in the third quarter and P633,000 in the fourth quarter of 2007; P4.139 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 and P42,691 in the first quarter of 2009.
“These are six violations; under declarations from 2005 to 2009. These documents would speak for themselves,” Guballa said.
Sereno is facing an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, and one of the allegations against her was her failure to declare her P37 million income as government counsel in the Piatco case in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
Sereno’s camp, however, said that her income from Piatco was estimated at P30 million and that the Chief Justice declared this in her tax returns and paid the appropriate taxes.
Guballa clarified that based on BIR records, Sereno earned P32 million from the Piatco case—an amount less than what Gadon has alleged but more than what the Chief Justice has declared. LLANESCA T. PANTI