MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday called out the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for its failure to collect a certain estate tax, without specifying from whom.
He issued the statement during a recorded public address that aired Wednesday amid controversy over the the Marcos family’s unsettled estate tax liabilities, which has ballooned to P203 billion.
Duterte said that the Office of the President need not remind the BIR of its mandate to collect taxes, as he explained his decision not to suspend e-sabong licenses despite the reported disappearances of individuals involved in online cockfighting.
He pointed out the government generates billions of pesos in revenues every month through e-sabong.
“Ako, baka nagdududa kayo bakit hindi ko hininto, hindi ko ho hininto kasi kailangan ng pera sa e-sabong ng gobyerno. I’ll make it public now - it’s 640 million a month. And in a year’s time, it’s billion plus. Saan tayo maghanap ng pera ng ganoon na kadali na siguro?” Duterte said.
(You might be wondering why I am not issuing a cease order. I am not ordering that it be stopped because the government needs the revenue from e-sabong... Where else can we easily find such funds?)
“Sa taxation natin, so ang gobyerno can only prod. Hindi naman kailangan ng reminder sa Malacañan. Nandiyan ‘yung BIR, so tanungin natin ‘yang BIR bakit hanggang ngayon hindi nakolekta ‘yung estate tax?”
(Our government can only prod when it comes to our taxation. A reminder from Malacanang is not necessary. We can just ask the BIR why it hasn't collected that estate tax until now.)
Sought for clarification on Wednesday if Duterte was referring to the Marcos family's estate tax liabilities, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who serves as acting presidential spokesman, said, "The president only reminded the BIR to act on its mandate - and that is to collect taxes."
The said tax liabilities of the Marcos family was initially raised by the camp of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, one of the rivals of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. in the May presidential race.
The Marcos camp dismissed the issue, saying the case is still pending in court, a claim refuted by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
According to Carpio, the high court ruling in 1997 which affirmed a Court of Appeals decision on the Marcos estate tax of P23 billion is already final and executory.
Asked if the government finds it urgent to collect the said tax liabilities to fund pandemic response and recovery programs, Andanar said, "Hndi lang sa kung sinong pulitiko o personalidad. Aba'y dapat sa lahat ng hindi nagbabayad ay habulin ng BIR sapagkat kailangan ng karagdagang pondo ang ating national government."
(It should not only be from some politicians or personalities. All who don't ay their taxes should be pursued by the BIR because our national government needs additional funds.)
Various groups have called on the BIR to go after the Marcos family's long overdue estate taxes. Domagoso's camp also proposed that Duterte himself should urge the BIR to take action.
In their last debate, some presidential aspirants in the upcoming elections found common ground when they agreed that government should collect the estate tax liabilities of the Marcos family.
Marcos, the frontrunner in the latest presidential preference surveys, is the only son and namesake of the late dictator, who is accused of illegally amassing wealth during his administration.
Duterte met with Marcos in the run up to his party's endorsement of the latter last week.