Roxas breaks silence on use of jets in campaign

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - February 16, 2016 - 2:04am

SILAY CITY, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II on Tuesday broke his silence on the issues surrounding his use of eight air assets for his campaign, saying he did not use government funds to rent them. 

Roxas also admitted that he is a friend of Eric Gutierrez, the owner of the air assets whose mining firm has been accused of illegal practices.

“For those asking about the aircraft, what I can tell you is this: It’s very simple. They are not for free. They are not favors. They are not free stuff. I paid for them. Second, I can assure you that I did not steal the money I spent for them,” he told reporters after a campaign rally here. 

“You asked me about my use of planes in traveling to different parts of the country. I answered the question. How about the other candidates? Perhaps they should be asked the same question,” he added.

When asked if he is indeed a friend of Gutierrez, Roxas said: “I know and I am a friend of Eric Gutierrez. I think he is a winner of both international and local contests because of the good management of his company.”

“He is my friend. What’s wrong with that?” he added.

Earlier, The Philippine STAR columnist Jarius Bondoc wrote that Gutierrez has provided Roxas with eight air assets for his campaign sorties.

He said Roxas and other candidates of the administration coalition are using a Citation Mustang worth $2.5 million; a Citation CJ4 worth $9 million; a Cessna Sovereign worth $19 million; four Cessna Caravans, each worth $2.5 million; and a Bell 429 helicopter worth $6.5 million.

According to Bondoc, Gutierrez is part owner of SR Metals Inc. and its subsidiaries San R Minin and Galeo Mining Equipment Corp. He said LP spokesman and Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice is a partner of Gutierrez in the mining companies, which have been involved in legal issues.

The three mining companies allegedly shipped out 1.8 million tons of ore worth P28 billion from Agusan to China. Bondoc said the firms were only slapped with a P7 million fine for the shipment.

Bondoc said the Environment Department has ordered the closure of the three firms in 2007 but this was not carried out by local executives supposedly due to the mining operators’ strong influence.

The columnist further claimed that at least two of the eight air assets provided to Roxas were exempt from 12-percent value-added tax (VAT). Based on data cited by Bondoc, the government reportedly lost more than P18 milion in revenues because of the exemption.

Erice claimed there is nothing irregular in the tax exemption.

“All planes used commercially are VAT-exempt but pays custom duties,” the lawmaker said in a text message.

“That is provided for by the law,” he added.

Section 109 of the tax code states that the sale, importation or lease of passenger or cargo vessels and aircraft, including engine, equipment and spare parts thereof for domestic or international transport operations are exempt from VAT. 

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