SC approves release of Sandigan SALNs to BIR

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has given the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) access to the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of justices of the Sandiganbayan.

This was in contrast to the SC’s rejection last August of a similar request of the BIR for the SALNs of justices of the high tribunal as well as the Court of Appeals (CA) and Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).

In the latest SC resolution promulgated Nov. 18 and signed by deputy clerk of court Felipa Anama, the SC partially granted the request of BIR Commissioner Kim Henares for certified copies of SALNs of incumbent justices of the anti-graft court.

The BIR requested copies of the SALNs for the years 2003 to 2012, but the SC allowed the bureau to only get copies of the SALNs for the last three years – 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In issuing the order, the high tribunal considered the letter from Sandiganbayan presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang last Nov. 10.

In is August ruling, the SC rejected the request of the BIR to get SALNs of its justices and those of the CA and CTA for the years 2003 to 2012.

The high court questioned the purpose of the BIR, saying the bureau has many pending cases in the SC, CA and CTA and branding it as a “fishing expedition.”

The SC stressed that the investigative power of the tax bureau is not absolute because its authority to assess and collect taxes is limited under the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC).

The law, the high tribunal held, imposes a three-year prescriptive period for the assessment of internal revenue taxes and extends the period to assess deficiency taxes to 10 years in cases when there is a false or fraudulent return with intent to evade tax or the non-filing of tax return.

The SC also said the BIR “failed to allege in particularity who it seeks to investigate” and that the bureau “had not given notice to those supposedly being investigated that they are being accused of fraud.”

The high court added that the BIR’s request is silent as to the facts and the law on which it based its finding of fraud, to justify the application of the 10-year prescriptive period.

The SC further explained that the provision in the NIRC used by the BIR in making the request “does not authorize the acquisition of any information or an investigation prior to an assessment of tax deficiency and that it should never be construed to authorize the conduct of a fishing expedition to hunt for any supposed tax liability.”

Lastly, the high court questioned the selective request made by the BIR when it did not seek the SALNs of justices in the Sandiganbayan or the first level courts.

The SC released the SALNs of its justices last July. Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo has remained the richest magistrate of the high court. His SALN showed a net worth of P122,217,723.13 in 2013, up by over P12 million from his net worth of P109,743,118.28 in the previous year.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is the second richest with P84,309,762.57 in net worth for 2013, which is less than half a million pesos higher than his net worth of P83,885,614.57 in 2012.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the most junior justice in the SC, had a net worth of P1,817,706.75 last year, slightly up from his P1,674,623.22 in 2012.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s net worth also grew by less than P1 million from P18,143,104.01 in 2012 to P19,012,648.21 last year.

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes had P78,274,991 in net worth last year, higher by some P1.7 million than his P76,542,167.31 in 2012.

Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe had P74,633,410 in net worth in 2013, also less than a million pesos higher than her P73,827,435 in the previous year.

The SALN of Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who retired from the judiciary last May 22, showed a net worth of P47.3 million.

In the latest SALNs, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta had net worth of P32,438,231.25 for 2013, Justice Jose Mendoza with P31,578,801.43, Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin with P27,818,400.00, Justice Martin Villarama Jr. with P24,071,521.84, Justice Arturo Brion with P16,599,909, Justice Jose Perez with P13,599,000, Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro with P10,416,000 and Presbitero Velasco Jr. with P10,385,089.49.












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