MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Former Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative and Arroyo ally Prospero Pichay, Jr. was slapped with a P32.73-million tax evasion case by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday.
BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, in a news conference, said Pichay "was able to acquire real, personal and other properties in 2009" and, after comparison with his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), his net worth increased at around P58.5-million between 2008 and 2009 but did not declare his income for 2009 and willfully attempted to evade or defeat tax.
Pichay also reportedly had property acquisitions, including a residential lot in Las Piñas, a residential house in Marikina, Malayan Units as well as motor vehicles and an airplane, apart from possessing large sums of cash.
Henares said Pichay cannot invoke the privilege of substituted filing.
"The regulation for substitued filing of income tax returns (ITR) only applies to those employed by one employer. In the case of Pichay, he is employed by 3 different companies so he should have filed his ITR," she said.
Apart from this tax evasion case, Pichay faces separate criminal and administrative charges for the alleged highly irregular and anomalous acquisition of a controlling stake at a thrift bank in Cabuyao, Laguna by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC), where Pichay is a member of the Board of Trustees.
Criminal charges slapped against him by Finance chief Cesar Purisima with the DOJ last April 5 are for violation of the Manual Regulations for Banks, Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.
Administrative charges were also filed against Pichay before the Office of the President (OP) by Purisima last April 6.
Purisima said Pichay and other members of the LWUA Board--Renato S. Velasco, Susana Dumlao Vargas, Bonifacio Mario M. Pena, Sr. and Daniel Landingin--should be held accountable for allowing LWUA to purchase 60 percent of the outstanding shares of stock of financially troubled Express Savings Bank, Incorporated (EXSBI) and for infusing a capital worth P480 million sourced from government coffers.
The Office of the Ombudsman preventively suspended Pichay for 6 months last May in connection with a separate case filed against him at the anti-graft office for the LWUA fund mess.
The BIR's investigation of Pichay's filing of ITR's and payment of taxes is an offshoot of these pending cases, Henares said.
In response to statements from the camp of former president and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that tax evasion charges filed against its allies are a form of harassment and smacks of witch hunt, Henares said: "Tingin ko alam ng maraming tao na may nangyari nung past administration. Siyempre may nangyari so iniimbestigahan sila, so anong dapat gawin ng gobyerno kundi papanagutin ang mga taong gumawa ng hindi tama."