Palace denies putting squeeze on artist/director Caparas

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Malacañang on Friday denied that comic strip artist and film director Carlo J. Caparas was the target of political harassment.

Caparas, who along with three others had been stripped of the National Artist Award by the Supreme Court, has insinuated he was a victim of harassment by the administration. He is also facing a tax evasion case.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the high court ruling stripping Caparas of the title had gone through a process in which the executive department had no hand.

Lacierda also said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) did not single out Caparas but had filed cases against many individuals for avoiding or evading the payment of taxes.

“From our end, we’re not putting the squeeze on him (’di ginigipit),” Lacierda told reporters in a briefing.

The high court voided then President Gloria Macagapagal-Arroyo’s 2009 conferment of the award to Caparas, fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, theater artist Cecile Guidote-Alvarez and architect Francisco Mañosa, saying the process by which they were chosen was attended by grave abuse of discretion.

A group of National Artist laureates—writers Virgilio Almario and Bienvenido Lumbera, sculptor Napoleon Abueva and painter Arturo Luz—petitioned the high tribunal to nullify the conferment.

Early this month, the Court of Tax Appeals ordered Caparas’ arrest in connection with a P101-million tax evasion case.

Caparas is facing a case for violation of the National Internal Revenue Code for failing to file value-added tax returns for the years 2006 to 2009.

BIR investigated Caparas over two TV shows he produced which were funded by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

The two shows, titled “Ang Pangarap Kong Jackpot” and “Kroko,” were apparently part of the P1.3-billion contracts entered into by PCSO and Caparas, and for which he received a total of P850.95 million from the years 2006 to 2009.

Caparas explained that the amount he received from PCSO was “net of taxes” and PCSO should have already withheld the taxes due and remitted them to the BIR.

Lacierda also said that Malacañang has nothing to do with the screening of nominations for the National Artist Award by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

“You know artists, they discuss art on a different level. So we do not really interfere. The only time that the President comes into the picture is when (the list) is elevated to the Palace. Other than that, the discussion happens down there,” Lacierda said.

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