MANILA - (UPDATE) A lawyer for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Wednesday she has duly paid her taxes, even as they admitted being surprised by the allegation presented at a House hearing.
"CJ declared all the income she received and she paid all the taxes that she needed to pay," Jojo Lacanilao, Sereno's spokesperson, told reporters.
Lacanilao said they will answer the accusation further when the impeachment complaint is filed before the Senate.
He said they first saw the allegation during the presentation by the Bureau of Internal Revenue on Tuesday before lawmakers discussing an impeachment complaint against Sereno.
Their camp could have given "so many explanations" had they been granted due process and Sereno was informed of her supposed tax deficiencies beforehand, said Lacanilao.
He also scored BIR's claim that there were discrepancies coming from the value-added tax which Sereno should have paid.
"Ang VAT, kung government ang nagbayad sa’yo, government will have to pay the VAT, the right VAT. Kung hindi binayaran ng gobyerno yung right VAT, sila yung nagbigay ng pera sa’yo, paanong kasalanan ni CJ yun?" he said.
The BIR said it has found that the Chief Justice “failed to pay all the appropriate taxes” arising from her income prior to joining the judiciary.
The agency said Sereno earned about P32.5 million as legal fees as a government lawyer with the Office of the Solicitor General in the case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Company Inc (Piatco), builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa said the top magistrate substantially declared all income and legal fees from the case in her income tax returns from 2004 to 2009 but there were discrepancies amounting to about P2.014 million.
Sereno is facing an impeachment case over her alleged misdeclared wealth and extravagant lifestyle. She has denied the charges.
On Tuesday, her camp announced that she would go on a "wellness leave." Supreme Court sources, however, said the high court en banc forced her to take an indefinite break while facing impeachment proceedings.