Three months after his ouster as Chief Justice, Renato Corona was slapped with a P150-million tax evasion charge by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Corona said the charge filed by the BIR in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday against him, his daughter Ma. Carla and her husband Constantino Castillo III was part of a continuing persecution by the Aquino administration.
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares said that Corona had a total net worth of P161.15 million from his declared income of P26.45 million based on an examination of his SALN submitted during his trial.
“There were underreported assets, undeclared assets, unreported cash. All of these were included and determined what his real net worth is for the end of each specific year,’’ Henares said in a news conference at the DOJ main office.
She said Corona should pay the government P120.5 million in taxes, inclusive of surcharges and interests covering 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Henares said Corona’s net worth could be even more, saying the assessment did not cover dollar accounts.
She added that Corona had revoked a waiver on all his bank accounts he signed during his Senate trial when he challenged his accusers to do the same to open a new regime of transparency. It was resoundingly ignored.
In a statement, Banco de Oro confirmed that Corona had revoked the waiver and was seeking relief from a Makati court from the BIR action against its client in view of the bank secrecy law prohibiting disclosure of accounts without the consent of the owner.
Malacañang said Henares was simply plugging loopholes in the tax system and the complaint filed in the DOJ was a natural consequence of Corona’s being found guilty by the Senate impeachment court in May of fudging declarations in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for which he was sacked.
“Since this administration started, the filing of tax evasion cases has been ongoing,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“This is not something extraordinary,” Lacierda said. “In this particular case, there’s already existing evidence to support the filing of a tax evasion case.”
Corona’s daughter is being sued in connection with a tax liability amounting to P9.93 million, and her husband, for a tax liability of P20.24 million.
‘We will overcome’
In a text message to reporters, Corona said he had been exchanging communications with the BIR and had complied with its deadlines. He said the BIR charge was long expected.
“As a man of the law, I will abide by the processes. We await the service of the subpoenae and the complaint. We will respond accordingly with the assistance of counsel we will engage,” he said.
“I agree with the observation of many that my family’s persecution continues with the usual media overkill, and that there appears to be an immediate need to divert public attention from certain issues that are becoming too hot to handle. By the grace of God, we will overcome. This, too, will come to pass.”
Corona was replaced by Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, President Benigno Aquino’s first appointee to the high court. The youngest junior member of the tribunal was pole-vaulted over five senior justices. Nine of the justices did not show up when Mr. Aquino swore in Sereno on Saturday.
No political persecution
In the news conference earlier in the day at the DOJ, Henares shrugged off suggestions by reporters that she was pursuing the administration-led demolition campaign against Corona.
“We are not a political office, we’re a law enforcement office and our mandate is to ensure that all people will follow the National Internal Revenue Code and if there are people who don’t follow it, we have to call their attention or we will file charges against them,’’ Henares said.
Henares, a prosecution witness during the Corona trial, said the BIR had issued a letter of authority against Corona, his daughter and son-in-law in April, indicating that the agency was investigating them.
Family sources have said that BIR agents had been conducting an investigation of Corona and his in laws as early as December. Former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas, Corona’s chief counsel, has also said BIR agents questioned him several times during the impeachment trial but told them to back off.
According to a BIR statement to reporters, Corona undervalued three of his properties by P17.30 million, failed to declare two properties valued at P12.75 million and underdeclared the value of his cash asset in his SALNs from 2003 to 2010 with the cash underdeclaration reaching P134.44 million in 2010.
The BIR said the discrepancy between Corona’s declared income and the substantial increases in his true net worth showed he earned more than what he had declared.
“In other words, this discrepancy implies that he earned income from other sources aside from his compensation as a public official,’’ the BIR said.
Corona is being sued for “willful attempt to evade or defeat tax and for deliberate failure” to file his income tax return (ITR) in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010, it said.
The BIR said Carla failed to file her ITR in 2010 despite a substantial income that allowed her to acquire property worth P18.33 million at 57 Maranao St., La Vista, Quezon City, for which she paid documentary stamp tax of P329,000.
She declared a cumulative income amounting to P228,040.00 in her ITR for 2008 and 2009.
Castillo declared an income of P1.93 million from 2005 to 2009 although he acquired a property in 2003 on Molave Street, Project 3, Quezon City, worth P10.5 million as well as a P15-million property at No. 6 Kalayaan Ave., Quezon City, in 2009.
The BIR said Castillo failed to file his ITR for 2003 despite acquiring a P10.5-million property that year. He also understated his income in his ITR despite buying a P15.24-million property in 2009, it added.