SC affirms ex-general’s acquittal in tax evasion case
The Supreme Court has affirmed the Court of Tax Appeals’ (CTA) acquittal of the tax evasion raps against former military comptroller, retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, and his wife, Erlinda, involving P458 million in underdeclared income from 2001 to 2004.
In a decision promulgated on Dec. 5, but made public only recently, the high court no longer examined the evidence presented during the trial because the government did not claim or prove in its petition for certiorari that there was a mistrial.
“[T]he Court finds that there was nothing capricious, whimsical, or even arbitrary in the CTA’s ruling that the prosecution failed to establish accused-respondents’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” the high court’s Third Division said in a 20-page decision penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Inting.
“When there is no allegation or proof of mistrial, there is no need for the Court to reexamine the evidence adduced by the parties. To do so will only amount to allowing an appeal to be made on an acquittal, which would clearly be in violation of the accused’s right against double jeopardy,” the SC ruled.
The ruling resolved the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) plea to review the CTA’s January 2019 acquitting the Ligot couple and an October 2019 resolution that denied the BIR’s motion for reconsideration.
The BIR probed into the former generals’ book of accounts and accused him and his wife of failing to supply correct information in their income tax returns and tax evasion from 2001 to 2004.
The said books contained real and personal properties that the couple acquired during those years, including parcels of land, condominium units, a vehicle and bank deposits, among others.
But prosecutors of the Department of Justice failed to prove that the Ligots, using undeclared income, acquired many properties, some allegedly through dummies, according to the CTA.
Since the spouses were not proven to have purchased assets with undeclared income, the court said “they could not have willfully violated” Sections 254 and 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code.
Thus, in a decision dated Jan. 8, 2019, the CTA cleared the Ligots of the charges, citing a lack of evidence that they owned bank deposits or properties they could not have afforded on their salaries.
In affirming the ruling, the SC said the CTA did not commit a grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the case against the couple.
The high tribunal further said that the petition did not point to any error in jurisdiction committed by the CTA Third Division.
“Here, the petitioner merely questions the CTA’s appreciation of evidence, particularly those relative to the allegations regarding the accused-respondents’ undeclared income,” it said.