MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Appointments has questioned the alleged discrepancy between Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima's declared assets and income from 2006 to 2009.
In a report, the CA said Purisima's wealth surged to P234 million in 2009, an increase of P35 million from 2006, based on his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
However, during the period, the finance chief only declared an income of P22 million in his tax return, resulting in a difference of P13 million.
The CA also found that in the joint ITR filings of Purisima in his wife from 2007 to 2008, Purisima did not declare any income even if he held positions in several corporations.
Purisima explains 'discrepancy'
In reaction to the CA's report, Purisima denied any wrongdoing. He said the explanation for the issues raised by the body was simple.
In the years he did not declare income, he said he had no salary as he was unemployed.
"Umalis ako ng gobyerno July 2005. Noong 2007, yung kaibigan kong si Mar Roxas, nagsisimula nang magplanong tumakbo, so tinutulungan ko lang, [I got no salary]."
He did have businesses, he said, but only as an investor. "Nagsusubok ako magnegosyo, pero investor ako. Walang dividends yun dahil nagsisimula pa lang mga yun."
On the alleged discrepancy between his assets and income, Purisima said: "[The P13-million discrepancy was] interest income, subject to final tax na 'yan."
Interest income is considered passive income, which was the subject of a regulation the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) withdrew because of complaints from several sectors, Purisima said.
Issued last March 1, BIR Regulation 2-2011 wanted taxpayers with annual income exceeding P500,000 to submit an annual information return (AIR) stating their earnings and income sources, including interest income, royalties, dividends, and gains from the sale of real properties. AIR is the equivalent of SALN, which is mandatory for government officials only.
Several lawmakers expressed opposition to the regulation, saying it would violate privacy. They also said that it ran counter to the National Internal Revenue Code, under which only income earners not required to file an ITR could be compelled to file an AIR.
'More pious than the Pope'
Sen. Francis Escudero, a member of the influential body, wants Purisima to explain the issues raised against him so as not to undermine his agency's ongoing crusade against tax evaders.
"They they should be more pious than the Pope, ika nga, cleaner than clean pagdating sa bagay na ito," Escudero said.
"Anumang pagpuna o findings ng investigative committee ng CA, accountant naman po si Sec. Purisima, alam ko may tamang kasagutan," he added.
Purisima is one of the few Aquino cabinet members who have yet to be confirmed by the CA.
The CA bypassed the confirmation of Purisima in January this year, and deferred it again when Congress went on recess before the Holy Week.
Some lawmakers are against Purisima's appointment. Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez earlier slammed Purisima's move to collect taxes worth billions of pesos from the Pagbilao coal power plant for the national government when, he said, the taxes should be paid to the provincial government.
But even without the confirmation, Purisima has been credited for a number of initiatives.
He is one of the brains behind the Aquino administration's Public-Private Partnership program. Also, under his watch, the Philippines issued its first global peso bonds. - With a report from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News