MANILA- The Court of Tax Appeals acquitted former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller, retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda in four tax deficiency cases amounting to P428.077 million.
The Ligots were accused of tax evasion for the years 2002, 2003, and 2004 and failure to supply correct information in their joint income tax return for 2001.
In the decision of the court's 3rd division promulgated on Jan. 8, 2019, it was noted that 12 witnesses testified for the prosecution on the acquisition of properties either in the name of the Ligots or their family members.
The properties included a 14-hectare land in Malaybalay City; two Paseo Parkview Tower 2 Condominium units with one parking slot in Makati City; a unit at Essensa East Forbes Condominum; properties in Anaheim and Orange County in California; and a parcel of land in Tanay, Rizal;
The Bureau of Internal Revenue noted that the Ligots do not have the capacity to acquire the properties based on their declared income, considering that Erlinda is supposed to be a housewife who has no known source of income.
The court also noted in the decision that the Ligots presented witnesses, among them a retired colonel who testified that the Tanay property was not wholly owned by Ligot.
The defense team of the Ligots argued that the prosecution failed to factually establish that they actually own the properties, and their right to due process was violated.
In the ruling of the court, it was not established that the Malaybalay property, Parkview and Essensa units and the Tanay property are owned by the Ligots as the deeds of settlement and sale were not offered as evidence.
“The court, therefore, can arrive at no other conclusion other than to acquit the accused spouses Ligot for the crimes they have been charged with,” the court said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Belen Ringpis-LHahaiban, with the concurrence of Associate Justice Erlinda Uy.
The CTA also declared that even the US properties were also not established to be owned by the Ligots as the due execution and authenticity of the documents must be proven by the prosecution as provided for in Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.
“As the prosecution did not present anybody who could attest to the requirements of the above-quoted section, the court cannot give credence to the exhibits presented,” the court said.
In the decision, the CTA however noted the Supreme Court decision on Republic of the Philippines vs. Patanao that “acquittal of the taxpayer in the criminal proceeding does not necessarily entail exoneration from his liability to pay the taxes.”
In 2011, Ligot was embroiled in a corruption scandal which also involved another former military comptroller, Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.
The multi-million peso “pabaon system” for retiring high-ranking military officers, including former chiefs of staff was also exposed.