Allies come to Pacquiao’s defenseBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Is the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) harassing Saranggani Representative Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao because, unlike 188 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives, he did not sign the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Renato Corona?
Senator Joker Arroyo raised the question Friday after learning that Pacquiao was not among the 188 members of the House who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona on December 12 last year.
“One disturbing aspect is that Pacquiao did not sign the articles of impeachment against CJ Corona. Can there be any connection?” the senator asked in a phone interview with Inquirer.
“You look at the articles of impeachment. Pacquiao’s name is not among those who signed,” Arroyo said in English and Filipino. “When I first read the news that he is being investigated by the BIR, I immediately checked with the Senate officers who have a copy of the complaint. He was not a signatory. Probably he was absent that day or whatever.”
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said Arroyo’s suspicion was ridiculous. “Some [lawmakers] did not sign [the articles of impeachment] even if they were there. And it’s okay,” he said in a text message to the Inquirer. “Pacquiao was not there at all during the signing.”
Pacquiao texted the Inquirer and confirmed that he was not there. But he said that he hoped the case that the BIR brought against him was not related to his failure to join the House majority in impeaching Corona.
Pacquiao, who holds world titles in eight boxing divisions, was training for his bout with Mexican Juan Miguel Marquez late last year, when the BIR demanded to see his tax returns after its regional office in Central Mindanao filed a complaint against him for failure to submit complete tax records for 2010.
Pacquiao could face up to two years in prison for the omission. He beat Marquez in a lackluster performance that lasted all of 12 rounds.
Pacquiao, who won his congressional seat as a candidate of the Nacionalista party, had already called President Aquino for help after a follow-up squeeze from the BIR.
More specifically, he asked the President to fire BIR Central Mindanao Director Rozil Lozares for harassing him.
“Supposing Pacquiao was appraised of the problem during his training and before the bout, that would have shaken his morale and mental make-up,” noted Arroyo, who said he had not met the boxer.
Arroyo said the timing of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima’s pronouncements reiterating the necessity of the BIR investigation was suspect and insensitive since Pacquiao was deep in training for his fight against American Timothy Bradley.
Bradley will challenge Pacquiao for his welterweight crown on June 9.
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. echoed Arroyo’s sentiments. “I am certain it is not part of the [BIR’s] job description to shame people publicly and make circuses out of their circumstances,” Revilla said in an e-mailed statement.
“What makes this so disturbing is that [BIR] officials are acting like credit card collectors who threaten, humiliate and consider all sorts of methods just to collect,” he said. “What if they [are] wrong? Would sorry be enough?” asked Revilla, president of the Lakas party.
Revilla said the BIR could have taken the high moral ground by just filing the charges and making no public announcements. “This is not the way to treat someone who we all consider as a contemporary hero [who] has brought great honor and pride to the country. Every time Manny steps in the ring, he carries on his shoulders the name and honor of the nation. Every punch he delivers and takes is not for himself alone but also for the Filipino people.”
No VIP treatment
But Sen. Francis Escudero urged Pacquiao to surrender the documents being demanded by the BIR if only to dispel perceptions that he was asking for VIP treatment.
“Pacman can file a case against the BIR official who he thinks is harassing him,” Escudero said. “But he still has the obligation to submit the documents being asked of him. As a public official, he has the obligation to show the people that he can comply with government requirements. If the BIR committed an error, at least his documents would become strong evidence that he is really being harassed.”
“Let it not be said that just because he is a congressman, just because he is preparing for a fight, he [is] exempt from BIR requirements. This is a good opportunity for Pacquiao to show that everyone is equal under the law,” Escudero added.
Also on Friday, Rep. JV Ejercito of San Juan and party-list Rep. Mark Sambar (Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta) appeared at a news forum and denounced the BIR’s action against Pacquiao as “malicious and untimely,” as it came at a time when Pacquiao was preparing to defend his welterweight title.
Ejercito accused the BIR of “crab mentality” for trying to pull down Pacquiao, which, he said, was damaging not only to the boxing champion but also to the Philippines and the Filipino people.—With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan and Marc Anthony Reyes