Henares sees red flag in Alphaland-BSP deal

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2015 01:43 PM | Updated as of Mar 13 2015 12:32 AM

BIR probing Alphaland president for possible tax evasion

MANILA - The 16th hearing of a Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating various corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay focused not so much on him but on the company that entered into a land development deal with the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) under his leadership.

Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Kim Henares told the subcommittee that an executive of Alphaland Corporation, which struck the deal with the BSP to develop a prime property in Makati, may have committed tax evasion by not paying income tax for compensation he supposedly received from the project.

Former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado had accused then- Mayor Binay of pocketing 5 percent of the BSP’s 15 percent shares from the project, which amounted to P200 million, for his 2010 vice presidential campaign. But Alphaland owner Roberto Ongpin said in a previous hearing that the 5 percent was actually the compensation he gave the company’s current president Mario Oreta to convince him to join the company.

Henares said if Ongpin was telling the truth, then an income tax of 32 percent should have been paid for the compensation to Oreta.

“It is part of the negotiation for Mr. Oreta to work for Alphaland,” she said at the hearing. “That is part of his compensation.”

Asked if the BIR is already investigating the matter, Henares told reporters after the hearing, “Tingin ko hindi ko na kailangang sagutin yan (I think I don’t need to answer that) … The favorite word nowadays, common sense.”

'P620M IN TAXES, PENALTIES'

At the hearing, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano estimated that Oreta would have to pay the government some P620 million in taxes and penalties, if indeed the 5 percent went to him and not to Binay.

Still, Cayetano believes the amount went to Binay as Mercado had alleged. He said Ongpin was just making an excuse for the Vice President.

“Either way, nahuli natin na may ilegal na nangyari (we found out something illegal happened),” he said at a press briefing.

“Parang palusot eh. Parang hindi napag-isipan na tax evasion ang bagsak (It seems like an excuse. Maybe they didn’t think the excuse would fall under tax evasion),” he added, referring to Ongpin’s statement.

TAX NOT APPLICABLE: LAWYER

Alphaland’s general counsel Rodolfo Ponferrada told the committee that income tax was not applicable in the case of Oreta.

“The carried interest which Mr Ongpin testified to during the last hearing was implemented in the most tax-efficient and cost-efficient manner, and that is through Noble Care Management Corporation subscribing to original shares of stock of Silvertown Property Development Corporation,” he said.

“And for that transaction … the only applicable tax is the documentary stamp tax which we fully paid, and we complied with all applicable laws.”

Cayetano pointed out, however, that Ongpin himself said at the previous hearing that the 5 percent share was compensation for Oreta.

NO SHOW

Both Ongpin and Oreta were not present in Thursday’s hearing. Ongpin was abroad, while Oreta cited medical reasons for his absence.

The BSP’s transaction with Alphaland is the latest of several accusations against Vice President Binay that the subcommittee has looked into. From allegedly overpriced infrastructure projects in Makati, the subcommittee’s investigation also touched on Binay’s supposed use of dummies to conceal his ownership of businesses and properties.

Binay has dismissed all allegations as part of a concerted effort to destroy his chances in the 2016 presidential elections.

Cayetano said the subcommittee will hold three more hearings before wrapping up its probe.