Ligots ordered arrested but can’t be foundBy Jerome Aning, Ronnel W. Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Where are they now?
Following reports that former Armed Forces comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife, Erlinda, were nowhere to be found after the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) ordered their arrest for alleged tax evasion, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she would verify the information.
“I’ll check it out. Of course we have to find where they are,” De Lima said.
She said agents of National Bureau of Investigation could be used in tracking down the Ligots if it were confirmed that the couple have disappeared.
She also welcomes the arrest warrants against the Ligots.
“That development is what the President is waiting for, that somebody will be tried for high crimes like tax evasion and that their cases won’t remain in the preliminary investigation level,” De Lima said.
In a resolution dated Sept. 28, the CTA’s 2nd division found probable cause for the Ligot couple to be put on trial for not reporting income earned in 2003 and for not paying tax on such income.
Ligot is the second high-ranking military officer to be charged with tax evasion after Carlos F. Garcia, another former military comptroller whose unexplained wealth prompted a wide-ranging Senate investigation into corruption in the Armed Forces.
Offshoot of Senate probe
The tax evasion case is an offshoot of the Senate investigation where Ligot was placed on the dock after he and other former high-ranking military officials were accused of involvement in a military slush fund scam by former military budget officer George Rabusa.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) last March filed a complaint with the justice department against the Ligots for allegedly attempting to evade paying taxes from 2002 to 2004. The BIR said the Ligots owed the government P428 million in unpaid taxes for that period, with Ligot having a tax deficiency of P290.2 million and Erlinda, P137.8 million.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) approved the filing of several counts of tax evasion against the couple last July. Based on the DoJ resolution, the Ligot couple is charged with facing one count of violation of Article 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code for failure to file a tax return in 2001 and three counts of violation of Article 254 of the same law for attempting to evade payment of tax from 2002 to 2004.
The CTA Sept. 28 decision, however, focused only on the Ligots’ failure to file their income tax returns in 2003 and to report on other income they made during that year.
Based on the BIR’s investigation, the Ligots did not declare a total of P164.3 million that they gained in 2003, which makes them liable for P153.2 million in taxes, excluding interest and penalty.
The CTA said that after studying the charges and supporting documents, it found probable cause to issue an arrest warrant against the Ligots. Bail was set at P20,000 each.
Associate Justices Juanito C. Cataneda Jr., Caesar A. Casanova and Cielito N. Mindaro-Grulla signed the resolution.
“The findings of the state prosecutor on the existence of probable cause that justifies the filing of an information against the accused must be accorded great weight,” the CTA said.
“Jurisprudence states that if the information is valid on its face and there is no showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion and prejudice on the part of the state prosecutor, the trial court should respect that finding of probable cause,” it added.
Also facing forfeiture case
The CTA ruling also did not mention Edgardo Yambao, Erlinda’s brother, who was included in the case filed by DOJ prosecutors.
In his appearance at the Senate hearing, Yambao could not explain how he had amassed some P255 million without any visible means of income.
The Ligot couple is also facing a separate forfeiture case at the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing P135 million in unexplained wealth. With Inquirer Research