CTA shuts door on Jeane Napoles’ tax protest
MANILA — The Court of Tax Appeals Second Division has maintained that it will no longer proceed with the petition filed by Jeane Catherine Napoles questioning the basis for her tax evasion charges.
This was despite Napoles’ attempt to invoke the recent moves of the Bureau of Internal Revenue under Commissioner Caesar Dulay which could have been used in her favor.
In a recently released six-page resolution dated June 21, the tax court denied Napoles’ May 5 motion seeking a new trial on her petition for review against the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s assessment of P40.03 million in income tax liabilities.
Jeane Catherine, the youngest child of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, had tried several times to save her petition after the court threw it out on Feb. 16 when lawyer Ian Encarnacion missed the pretrial hearing that day.
In her latest “second motion for new trial” filed on June 13, Napoles said the case should be retried because it turned out that BIR under the Duterte administration has been counting her posh $1.2-million condominium unit at Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles as a taxable property of her controversial mother.
For Jeane, this could be used as new evidence to disprove her liability to pay taxes on the property. She had claimed in the past that she was not liable for income tax because she was only a student who received the condominium as a gift from her parents.
However, the court rejected the notion that this new evidence could be considered a ground to reopen the case.
It pointed out that since the case did not even move to the trial stage, it could not entertain this new evidence by the defense.
“No evidence has yet been offered because the trial has not even started due to the several postponements that have characterized the proceedings of this case,” read the resolution.
Besides this issue, the tax court said the motion for new trial, filed on May 5, raised arguments that were merely rehashed from an earlier attempt to appeal the Feb. 16 dismissal.
Napoles argued that the case should be allowed to continue with a new trial on the ground that the earlier proceedings had been affected by the lawyer’s “mistake and excusable negligence.”
Unmoved, the tax court stressed that a client would be “bound by his counsel’s conduct, negligence and mistake in handling a case.”
It said Encarnacion’s inability to reach the pretrial in time “does not constitute as a ‘mistake’ or ‘excusable negligence,'” because the scheduled hearing was previously postponed several times.
“The wide latitude and flexibility accorded by this Court to petitioner’s counsel should, at the very least, given the petitioner a mindful attitude to ensure the attendance of counsel during the hearing set on February 16, 2017,” read the resolution.
“It is hard to believe that it would entail extraordinary diligence for a counsel to appear at the date and time set by the Court several days before the schedule,” it added.
Associate Justices Juanito C. Castañeda Jr. penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Associate Justice Catherine T. Manahan.
Encarnacion had insisted that he did not intend to miss the 1:30 p.m. pretrial conference on Feb. 16, saying he “merely came in late” at 1:50 p.m. as the board meeting he attended in Makati City earlier that day ended at 12:45 p.m. He said he sent his representative Manny Galamgam to request a second call since he would be late.
But, he said Galamgam mistakenly thought the hearing would be held by the Third Division, which has been tackling Napoles’ criminal charges. By the time the lawyer arrived, the Second Division had already dismissed Napoles’ tax petition.
Napoles’ petition at the Second Division argued that she could not be tried for the criminal case tax evasion at the Third Division because the BIR’s income tax assessment for the years 2011 and 2012 was invalid to begin with.
The petition, docketed as CTA Case No. 9354 and filed May 19, 2016, reasoned out that as an overseas student holding a United States F-1 visa, she would not have been allowed to work and earn her own income.
Napoles said her posh $1.2-million condominium unit at Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles formed part of the allowances given by her parents.
“It is not uncommon for many Filipino parents to buy a property and place it under the name of their children, either by way of gift or under an express trust agreement,” the petition argued.
Napoles was cast into the limelight after her lavish lifestyle was publicized during the height of the controversy faced by her mother, who allegedly facilitated the misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations through bogus non-government organizations. SFM
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