DOF looks into BIR chief Dulay’s plunder case
MANILA — The Department of Finance will look into the plunder case filed against the head of the country’s biggest tax-collection agency alongside other Bureau of Internal Revenue officials.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III announced this on Tuesday, even as he pointed out that Del Monte Philippines Inc., whose tax liabilities from 2011 to 2013 were allegedly slashed by the BIR to just P65.4 million from P30 billion, had not committed a criminal act.
Asked about the case against BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and 16 other officials filed last month before the Office of the Ombudsman, Dominguez told reporters: “The DOF will investigate the case; the charges are going to be examined by us… Our legal department will conduct the investigation.”
As for the BIR’s move to supposedly bring down Del Monte’s tax dues, Dominguez said: “Del Monte was not caught with a criminal act. And what the BIR decided was well within their authority,” as the agency could enter into compromise settlement with supposedly delinquent taxpayers.
Asked if he was backing up the BIR, Dominguez replied: “I’m not supporting the BIR. I’m just stating facts.”
Separately, Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin told reporters that the DOF would ask Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay to provide his comments with regards the complaint before the Ombudsman.
Agabin said all complaints against revenue officials have gone through that process. “It’s nothing special—if we have complaints like that, we just look at it; we don’t disregard it… It’s our task to investigate,” he explained.
However, the investigation would be “limited only to the administrative–when it comes to the criminal side of it, that’s outside our jurisdiction,” Agabin said.
“We have no power to investigate on the criminal aspect. Our authority is only with respect to the administrative aspect,” he added.
Upon conclusion of the investigation, “depending on the findings, under the revised rule on administrative complaints issued by the Civil Service Commission, depending on what offense, then we have to match it with the appropriate penalty,” Agabin said.
Dulay said in a statement issued on Tuesday that a subordinate, Deputy Commissioner Jesus Clint O. Aranas, initiated investigation on the alleged “anomalous reduction” of Del Monte’s tax liabilities.
“It appears that an investigation was already initiated by Aranas way before the Commissioner was told to take action on the letter of Danilo Lihayhay [the complainant to the Ombudsman]. Aranas issued show-cause orders to some of the employees implicated in the said letter. Aranas confirmed this in a press interview he gave to the Inquirer. In fact, his office through the national investigation division earlier received a copy of an anonymous letter complaint for which the Commissioner was never informed. Instead, Aranas took cognizance of the complaint and immediately issued show cause orders. The Commissioner was informed and came to know about this only from media,” Dulay said.
“The cases of Del Monte covering the subject taxable years did not reach the Office of the Commissioner as they did not require any action on the part of the Commissioner. The assessments made against Del Monte and payments thereof are within the delegated review and approval authority of the head of the [BIR’s] Large Taxpayers Service under existing revenue issuances issued way back in 2007. Commissioner Dulay had no personal knowledge of the questioned assessments and payments made by Del Monte,” he added.
“A report submitted to the Commissioner showed that the concerned investigating officers went over voluminous documents and records to validate the reconciliation, explanation and documents submitted by Del Monte. The preliminary assessments were too high as claimed by Del Monte. However, this was not unusual considering that raw/initial findings are incorporated in the preliminary assessment. Del Monte was in this instance able to explain the alleged discrepancies presumed to represent sources of tax deficiencies,” Dulay explained.
As for the move of Aranas to issue show cause orders, Dulay said there were “several violations of civil service and BIR rules of procedure on administrative investigations in the handling of the complaint of Lihayhay by the office of Aranas.”
As such, Dulay said he “recommended that the complaint of Lihayhay be investigated or acted upon by the DOF instead since he himself is mentioned therein as involved in the alleged anomaly.”
Also, Dulay said he “asked that the handling of the complaint be separately probed by the Department and because of this he ordered DCIR Aranas to desist from further investigating or acting on the letter of Lihayhay.
According to Dulay, “complainant Lihayhay has a history of filing baseless plunder complaints.”
“Lihayhay filed plunder cases against former presidents Arroyo and Aquino and almost all BIR commissioners, including former commissioner Kim Henares who declared him ‘persona non grata.’ All cases were dismissed, having no factual or legal basis but intended merely to harass,” Dulay noted.
As for Del Monte’s tax liabilities, Dulay said he “ordered a review of the case upon order to take appropriate action by the Department of Finance acting on the endorsement of the Office of the President who was likewise acting on an endorsement of the Office of the Ombudsman.” SFM