MANILA - Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday said Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. may have been motivated to run for President so that he and his family can escape over P203 billion in unpaid estate tax liabilities.
Carpio said that while the Supreme Court has decided with finality in 1997 that the excise tax assessment of over P23 billion is final and executory, there is a prescriptive period in which the government must collect it.
The period runs for 5 years, and can be reset with the sending of a demand letter to the tax offender.
Carpio said this has continued for nearly half a century, with the 20 percent per annum penalty pushing the tax liability to over P203 billion.
"The Marcoses have developed a counter strategy. They will make the right to collect of the government prescribe. Once he is President, nobody will file a notice, demand letter on him, and he has a term of 6 years, and it takes only 5 years for the prescriptive period to set in. So that is their counter strategy. He becomes President, I am certain that P203 billion will be gone forever because it has prescribed, assuming it has not prescribed already because during the 6 years of the Duterte administration, I don’t know if they filed it on time. That December 2, 2021 letter, I am not sure if they filed it on time," Carpio said.
Carpio said one way to go after the tax liability and to collect the P203 billion is for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to file criminal charges against Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
"If you legally obliged to pay the tax, and you willfully refuse to pay the tax, you are criminally liable to pay, up to 10 years imprisonment. That is why I am saying, the BIR if it wants to it may file a criminal case and I think it is time. Because 25 years almost, almost a quarter of a century they have not paid the tax. Ano pa ang hinihintay ng BIR?" he said.
Former BIR Commissioner Kim Henares says that too may be thwarted should Marcos Jr. become president and the BIR fails to file beforehand.
"The law provides such a remedy. But I would just like to point out that if BBM becomes president, I think for 6 years, because of the presidential immunity, you might not be able to file a criminal case," she said.
Henares had an opportunity to file such a case against the Marcoses, but she did not.
"During my time ho, hindi ho kami nag file ng kaso, ng criminal case. Ang ginagawa namin naghahanap kami ng property niya, at kinokolekta namin 'yan. Kasi nung pumasok kami walang pera ang gobyerno so ang unang objective ay mag-collect ng revenue para may support ho yung sa lahat ng project ng government," she explained.
Henares was BIR commissioner from 2010 to 2016 during the term of President Benigno Aquino III. She said she understood at that time that there were other processes in motion to go after the Marcoses’ ill gotten wealth.
"I most probably would not have filed it rin kasi wala na kaming gagawin kundi sumagot kay Marcos. Kunwari nag-file kami ng kaso, imbis na pinagtutuunan namin ng pansin mangolekta, siguro wala na kaming ginawa kundi sumagot kay Marcos at narrative nya. Which is hindi yung main objective. Secondly, I believe he was senator at the time na nasa BIR po kami," she said.
Carpio said the Marcoses have dragged the issue out in court, even filing motions for reconsideration at the Supreme Court even though further such motions were no longer allowed by law. However, Carpio believes a case must still be filed.
“You just have to trust the system and file the cases. If you don’t file the cases, nothing really will happen. So the BIR should now file that case, file the complaint with the DOJ and start the ball rolling and push it to its logical conclusion," he said.
Carpio and Henares also debunked claims the estate tax is some sort of admission or recognition by government that the Marcoses’ wealth is not ill- gotten.
They said that tax does not distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate sources of income. They added that the payment of taxes does not absolve the tax payer of any crimes they have committed.
They noted that the estate tax was assessed on properties of the Marcoses which were not yet sequestered by government when the Marcos dictatorship was toppled.
Henares noted that if more assets of the Marcos family are found to have not been ill-gotten, then additional estate taxes will have to be assessed on those assets, adding to the already substantial liability of over P203 billion.
The forum on the tax liability was held by 1Sambayan, an organization supporting the presidential campaign of vice president Leni Robredo.
Meanwhile the petition asking the BIR to file criminal complaints against the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. has now garnered over 17,000 signatures, as of noon March 24. The petition was posted on March 20 on change.org.