BIR chief: Lawmakers hiding their SALNs

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MANILA, Philippines – Amid the scandal involving the misuse of P10-billion pork barrel funds allegedly by 28 lawmakers, some congressmen and senators are hiding their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs).

“We have had several requests but up to now they’re not releasing [their SALN],” BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares said in an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM Thursday.

Although the BIR’s role in the pork barrel scam probe is focused on the finances of Janet Lim-Napoles whose group allegedly pulled off the racket over the past 10 years using a network of bogus nongovernment organizations, Henares said they must investigate everything and that includes the SALNs of politicians.

But she cited a drawback.

“The problem with investigating people in Congress and Senate [is] the SALN. [In] the lower house we have been asking for the SALN of some of the congressmen for months [and] years [and] some of the congressmen, up to now, they’re not releasing [the documents],” Henares said.

She was asked during the interview about the bureau’s direction in investigating the pork barrel scam after the BIR disclosed that professionals in the country have not been paying the correct taxes.

“Although whatever we are doing should be confidential, it might be unbelievable if we said that we are not investigating that,” Henares said.

“We will investigate because if we don’t, people would say that we are not doing our job,” she said.

When asked if the BIR was particularly looking at the politicians who benefitted from the scam, Henares said “when we investigate something, we investigate the whole thing.”

Five senators and 23 congressmen were linked to the pork barrel scam allegedly hatched by Janet Lim-Napoles, president and CEO of the trading firm JLN Corp.

Portions of the PDAF of senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Gregorio Honasan had gone to dummy non-government organizations (NGOs) formed by Napoles.

In the House of Representatives, Masbate third district Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete had allocated portions of her PDAF 13 times, while Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan’s 6th district and Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur had both given funds from their PDAF nine times.

Benguet Representative Samuel Dangwa had appropriated PDAF eight times.

The PDAF had gone to dummy organizations for alleged ghost projects over the past decade.

“When we are investigating, normally we want to get as many of their SALN as possible,” Henares said.

She pointed out that SALNs from other government offices, particularly those in the executive branch, “madali lang makakuha (they are easy to get).”

Corona SALN

Henares’ disclosure on BIR problem of getting its hands on the lawmakers’ SALN reminds the bitter legal battle for the disclosure of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona’s wealth.

Last December 2011, Corona was impeached by 188 members of the House of Representatives as well as the Senate for failing to declare many of his assets in his SALN.

A five-month impeachment trial ended with a conviction for Corona who was found guilty for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution.

Corona did not declare in his SALN assets and dollar accounts that are under his name. He claimed that the money in those accounts were those of his family members and not his.

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