With a successful business in financial lawyering, the Du-Baladad and Associates is ready to take on new challenges
BELIEVING that its people are its greatest resource, the Du-Baladad and Associaties (BDB Law) aims to continue building its human capital over the coming decade to serve its clients better and deal with the new challenges. It has also obligated itself to do the country good by continuing to help advocate for a tax environment that is ideal for the country.
“I pray for a tax system that serves as a catalyst for inclusive growth – one that reduces rather than widen the gap between the rich and the poor; one that propels the growth of the economy rather than stifle; one that is simple, equitable and fair,” says the firm’s founder, Benedicta Du-Baladad.
Proud of having a team that is well-versed in taxation, legal and corporate services, Du-Baladad, who has let go of her title as the firm’s managing partner, says, “These people serve and ensure that the firm will continue to follow this path, always move from strength to strength, but see to it that our services are done keeping in mind this responsibility to the country,”
“She started this firm, right? So, I think we will just continue what she had started,” says Fulvio Dawilan of Du-Baladad, who also chairs the BDB Law Foundation. He is quick to add, however: “Knowing her, she will always still be around.”
“Yes, but slowly,” she replies.
Manned with around 40 people eager to deliver BDB Law’s signature “total client care” approach, the firm is is good hands. The foundation of its practice is etched in three pillars – holistic, professional, personal. Being holistic, the firm must be able to deliver end-to-end solutions, in a professional, personal manner.
The firm provides its clients with “sound and practical solutions for their concern and regulatory compliance,” according to the firm’s profile. It points out, “We partner with our clients in their growth aspirations, supporting them with solid legal advice that comes from our depth of experience, enriched with new ideas and solutions.” It also appreciates the uniqueness of each business engagement, taking time to study the nuances of its clients’ needs for personalized and responsive services. The firm says this is a good way to manage the risks faced by clients and strengthen their positions.
This way, BDB Law earns the confidence of its clients through the trust it builds. Its roster of clients at the top rung of the financial and corporate ladder includes a number of multinational enterprises, listed companies and large taxpayers registered with the Large Taxpayers Unit of the Philippines’ tax authority. “We provide these services to a variety of industries that include banking and other financial institutions, power and energy, oil and gas, mining, real estate and construction, manufacturing and technology – further enriching our insights viewed from the lens of best practices,” the firm says.
It explains, “Competence, responsiveness, integrity, the willingness to explore new thinking and offer cutting-edge solutions – these are the values that we at BDB Law anchor our practice on.”
Describing himself as the “proudest person being with the BDB Law,” Dawilan, a certified public accountant and an attorney like Du-Baladad, is the firm’s senior, now managing partner and has been a tax lawyer for more than 20 years. With a successful stint as a partner of the Tax Advisory & Compliance Division, at one of the country’s major accounting firms (he had also done some external-audit work at another major accounting firm), he has a solid background in providing tax-advisory services and in determining client compliance with the tax rules. He has represented clients in tax cases before the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Finance and the Court of Tax Appeals.
BDB Law was only 2-month old when Du-Baladad, who suddenly found herself neck-deep in work despite of an original plan to only do what she desribes as “boutique consultancy,” with an aim to spend more time with her family, asked Dawilan to help her out. “I was alone,” she recalls. “I only had one secretary, one janitor. I thought of my commitments even in my dreams. “Work came in abruptly and in bulk, so I needed help. He was the first person who came to mind. He was then in the US, about to take the New York bar exams. A very intelligent, low-key, hardworking man whose decisions are very humane.”
Describing herself as “more of the one who meets and discusses with people,” Du-Baladad calls Dawilan as “the silent worker, loves to be in the background but very analytical, very passionate” in helping the clients. “He is very good in technical writing,” she reveals. “He loves to do things. He loves to work behind the scene and is very hardworking. When there is work, I throw it to him and he does it fast.”
She also says, “Then Irwin came for litigation. He is very good in litigation. Rodel is very good in handling assessment and in advisory.” She is referring to the firm’s partner, Irwin Nidea, Jr., who is an economist-lawyer, and to Rodel Unciano, a CPA-lawyer who’s the firm’s newest partner. Nidea handles tax litigation involving assessments and claims for refunds of clients, as well as administrative protests and claims for refunds before govenrment bodies and the LGUs.
“The practice of tax is hybrid, requiring the expertise of the fields of both law and accountancy,” Du-Baladad says. “As you go to high-end tax advisories, the skills of an economist then becomes important, too. As it is now, our tax system is so complicated, requiring these skills to navigate over it. It is costly, very costly.” She adds, referring to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law, “That is why we strongly advocate to simplify the rules, which is the same track the TRAIN seeks to address. They say supporting the TRAIN is against our own interest. If the rules are clear, we will soon lose our business. That is not true. High-end tax advisories that give real value to business will always need our expertise. And that is what we are good at. As for tax simplification, this is what the country needs and it is now time to do something for the country – simple and clear tax rules.”
She emphasizes, “In our practice, major opinions and cases will not go out without a three-eyed review from the partners. We have good, hardworking and competent partners. With these three partners, I am confident that the firm is in good hands.”
In an interview, Du-Baladad says that BDB Law is a strong advocate for simple, fair and efficient tax system. “Our tax system is so antiquated, inequitable, complicated, unclear and uncompetitive,” she stresses. “This is the result of years of tinkering with it that you don’t recognize its form anymore.” This must partly be the reason why Du-Baladad is so passionate about tax reforms, expressing her confidence, for instance, that the TRAIN will simplify taxation in the country. When rules and structures are simplified, she says, more people will join the tax net.
“It is not true that many taxpayers do not want to pay their taxes,” explains Du-Baladad, who is now governor-in-charge of the Tax Committee, of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). “They do. But they are afraid that if they are unable to comply with the stringent requirements, there is a bigger chance of being caught. When you simplify the rules, there would be less tax leakage as there will be lesser avenues for taxpayers to play around and hide.”
An initial package of President Rodrigo Duterte’s CTRP, or Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, TRAIN includes changes in personal income tax, estate tax, donor’s tax, value-added tax and documentary stamp tax. It also includes changes in the excise tax of petroleum products, cars, sweetened beverages, cosmetic procedures, coal, mining and tobacco. “All these, we support,” says Du-Baladad, who is also a director of the Bank of Commerce and a professional lecturer of taxation at the University of Sto. Tomas, where she earned her law degree. She is formerly the president of the Financial Executives of the Philippines (Finex) and of TMAP, or Tax Management Association of the Philippines.