• Stradcom withholds P317-M tax payment, irks BIR

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    Officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) are at a loss as to why the P317 million tax payment of Stradcom Corp., did not reach the agency when the money was released as early as January this year.

    Stradcom is the Information Technology (IT) provider for the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

    LTO chief Virginia Torres on Monday disclosed that Internal Revenue chief Kim Henares herself informed her that the fund was not forwarded to her agency.

    Torres said that as far as she knows, the money was part of the P1 billion ordered released from the P4.2 billion Stradcom account that was put in escrow.

    She said that she brought the matter to Transportation Secretary Emilio Joseph Abaya through a text message she sent also on Monday.

    “Good morning po my Secretary, I was surprised last week when BIR Chief Kim called me to follow tax payment of Stradcom. I informed her that as early as first week of January 2013, DoTC already approved the release of P1 billion to include P317 million for tax payment. The P1 billion was released by the Land Bank to Stradcom last January,” Torres’ text message to Abaya, which she also furnished The Manila Times, read.

    A check made by The Times revealed that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Abaya, Torres, DOTC Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Jose Perpetuo Lotilla and Land Bank of the Philippines President Gilda Pico worked for the release of the P1 billion to be withdrawn from Land Bank.

    The P4.2 billion was placed on escrow by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City following a controversial takeover of Stradcom by its new leaders two years ago. Since the ownership issue could not be settled by the officials, Torres decided to bring the matter up for the court’s intervention.

    Torres also informed President Benigno Aquino 3rd about the matter also through a text message.

    The LTO chief said that the BIR tax payment was “one of the justifications” for the release by the DOTC of the P1 billion to Stradcom.

    Court records showed that on April 18, 2011, Bonifacio Sumbilla, president and chief executive officer of Stradcom, sent a formal letter to Pico to remind the bank executive that there was still a pending case of interpleader in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

    Sumbillo’s letter noted that the amount on deposit with the Land Bank as escrow agent has been questioned by two contesting parties of Stradcom Corp and that there is a pending Interpleader before the Regional Trial Court Branch 95 with the case title “Republic of the Philippines, through the Land Transportation Office represented by Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres versus Stradcom Corporation (as represented by Cezar Quiambao, et al., and as represented by Bonifacio Sumbilla, et al.).”

    The Interpleader, according to Sumbilla, was filed precisely to determine who is the rightful recipient of the amounts in escrow.

    Sumbilla also notified Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, as Land Bank chairman of the board of directors, LBP directors Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio De Los Reyes, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Crispin Aguelo, Domingo Diaz, Tomas de Leon Jr., and Victor Gerardo Bulatao.

    The legal tussle began on Feb. 10, 2011, when Torres brought to court an interpleader case against the warring Sumbilla and Quiambao groups.

    Judge Edgar Dalmacio Santos of QCRTC branch 222 ordered the LTO “to deposit to the court the subject current amount of its contractual obligations to Stradcom Corporation”.

    The Times was able to get in touch with lawyer Eric Pilapil through Danny Cariño, the company’s public relations man who said he is “not allowed to say anything in official capacity.”

    “I am wary of your text claiming that Assec. Torres effectively pointing the finger to Stradcom and/or its lawyers for allegedly keeping the P317M from the BIR, that does not sound right,” Pilapil said.

    Pilapil later emailed Stradcom’s arguments.

    His statement claimed that “the P1 billion paid and signed by LTO Assistant Secretary Virginia herself last January 2013 to the very same, unchanged and over-decades old account of Stradcom Corporation is now proof that she is no longer in a quandary as to whom should be paid—it remains, as it has always been, the separate juridical entity of Stradcom Corporation, and not any individual person. Premises considered, she actually no longer has any basis to maintain the said—yet to date still pending—interpleader case.”

    He cited a March 18, 2013 Resolution of the Supreme Court which “upheld the findings of the Court of Appeals and concerned intra-corporate Regional Trial Court that the Sumbilla group are nuisance parties and that the Quiambao group are effectively the lawful and incumbent duly elected directors, officers, as well as stockholders of Stradcom Corporation.”

    As for the matter of income taxes, Stradcom insisted that it is the company’s “respectful and considered position” that the P1 billion payment made to the company was not enough to trigger the income tax due for the subject calendar year.

    “This fact was or is sufficiently disclosed to the superiors of Assistant Secretary Torres and/or the concerned approving authorities. Stradcom Corporation has also duly written the Bureau of Internal Revenue in this regard. The company has assured the DOTC however that once all its outstanding computer fees are duly and fully paid, it shall correspondingly and promptly pay the income taxes due thereon to the BIR,” Stradcom said.

    The company said the civil damages and injuries suffered by them due to the cessation in the regularity of its payments for almost three years has constrained the company to claim the same against all nuisance parties and their co-conspirators.

    “Stradcom Corporation however remains hopeful for, and thankful to, the continuing support of truly concerned government officials that make the daily frontline, online, realtime and nationwide operations of the Land Transportation Office possible to this very day for the benefit and interests of our transacting public,” it added.

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