Jinggoy grills Heidi Mendoza on taxes, travels

By Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2014 04:03 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2014 12:38 AM

MANILA - Commissioner Heidi Mendoza of the Commission on Audit (COA) came face to face with Senator Jinggoy Estrada during her confirmation hearing with the Commission on Appointments Wednesday afternoon.

Estrada, who earlier vowed to block Mendoza's appointment, grilled Mendoza on her supposed non-payment of taxes, her properties and travels abroad.

The senator stated early on that Mendoza lacks competence and fitness to assume the position of commissioner.

Answering the question from the senator, Mendoza said that if not confirmed by the CA, she would then consider leaving her office permanently.

Estrada first referred to an earlier affidavit submitted last September where Mendoza said no income taxes were levied from the period of 2007-2010, when she earned an approximate 7.5 million pesos for being a governance and anti-corruption consultant of an international development agency.

Mendoza said she paid 836,000 pesos in taxes last October 5, 2011 to cover the period, long before the Bureau of Internal Revenue issued the regulations concerning the taxes for consultancies. She said she paid taxes in 2006.

Estrada then asked about a condo unit in Serendra which Mendoza apparently purchased on 2007 but did not include in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Mendoza said that she returned the property to the developer without it being transferred to her name on 2011 simply because she does not have enough funds to pay.

The senator also scrutinized her travels abroad. Mendoza pointed out that most of her trips were for official business and were not always shouldered by the government, but by several development partners like the World Bank.

She also declined to comment on the frequent travels abroad of her boss, Chairman Grace Pulido Tan, which the senator also mentioned.

The hearing was not always antagonistic towards Mendoza, however, as Senator Loren Legarda praised her on her excellent work on disaster risk reduction.

Despite vowing to block her appointment however, Estrada was not able to invoke Section 20 as the hearing was cut short for the start of the plenary session.

As the committee rescheduled the hearing on Wednesday, June 11, Estrada said it would not be possible.

"How can I block it when according to our rules you cannot invoke section 20 during the last day before adjourning the CA?" he told reporters.

He also said he still has a lot of questions to ask Mendoza.

"There are a lot of ways of skinning a cat," he said.