GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/8 March) – Is Rep. Manny Pacquiao being sued by the government for his well-chronicled association with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) filed a criminal case against Pacquiao for reportedly failing to answer summons which is a violation of Article 266 of the New Internal Revenue Code.
The BIR said it is trying to determine if there are deficiencies in the congressman’s tax payments. It has ordered Pacquiao to produce books account and copies of his advertising and endorsement contracts for 2010 (underscored). The BIR claimed Pacquiao has not complied with the order.
Pacquiao had earlier declared his net worth as well over P1 billion with no liabilities, making him the richest member of the House of Representatives. Pacquiao won in the 2010 election for the lone congressional seat of Sarangani. He ran under his own People’s Camp Movement party with coalesced with defeated presidential candidate Manny Villar.
His aide Bren Evangelio said that Pacquiao just recently changed the venue where to file his income tax following the congressman’s election. The congressman used to file his income taxes in Quezon City. He is now a registered taxpayer of Region 12.
Evangelio said they will comply with the BIR order upon orders from Pacquiao, who is the region’s biggest taxpayer.
While the government is well within its rights to make sure that every taxpayer pays the right taxes, recent developments are giving impression that it is going after individuals and personalities who are closely identified with the former president.
Arroyo herself is facing a host of criminal charges and is the poster girl of the Aquino government’s subject for his anti-corruption drive. Arroyo’s son Mikey, also a member of the House of Representative, is facing tax evasion charges, in fact.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose “midnight appointment” by Arroyo was questioned, is now facing impeachment trial.
Pacquiao is no longer a favorite guest of Malacañang that he used to be under the Arroyo administration.
He may have incurred the ire of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III when the former twitted his “No” vote when the House of Representative voted to impeach now-resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, also a known Arroyo ally.
Pacquiao is now having a hard time securing the P200 million earlier pledged by Malacañang for his pet hospital project for Sarangani. Despite his popularity, Pacquiao seems out of the radar screen as far as the good graces of Malacañang.
Now this criminal case.
Malacañang or the BIR could have just issued a press statement that it was still waiting for Pacquiao to produce the summoned documents but it chose instead to announce that it is suing Pacquiao for doing so.
Pacquiao is a member of Congress and thus deserves respectful treatment from members of a co-equal branch of government. As such one cannot be forgiven if he adduces malice behind the “persecution” and strengthens perception of vindictiveness of the Aquino government.
Pacquiao now surely knows how it is when political climate shifts and is no longer in his favor.
(Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com.)