Solons eye Mike Arroyo, Rep. Ignacio Arroyo taxes, can’t crack bookkeeper | Inquirer News
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Solons eye Mike Arroyo, Rep. Ignacio Arroyo taxes, can’t crack bookkeeper

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 02:33 AM August 26, 2011

All the senators could do was to admire the bookkeeper’s loyalty to her boss, whoever. They told her she was lying. But she stayed the course. In the end, they had to let her go. They had to look at another way to get at the truth.

First, graft. Now, the Arroyo brothers could also face tax evasion charges if they cannot explain through legal documents how they purchased five helicopters in 2004.

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Sen. Sergio Osmeña III dismissed Iloilo Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo’s excuse that he entered into a lease contract with Lionair Inc. in 2004 for five helicopters to be used in the presidential campaign of his sister-in-law, Gloria.

“We have to check Iggy’s actual tax returns and have these subpoenaed by the committee,” Osmeña told reporters after the fifth blue ribbon committee hearing on the sale of two secondhand choppers to the Philippine National Police in 2009.

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Osmeña said the $500,000 that Rowena del Rosario, former bookkeeper of the Arroyo-owned LTA Inc., remitted to Robinson Helicopter Co. in 2004 was actually a downpayment for the five R44 Raven I helicopters.

Del Rosario earlier said the sum was an advance lease payment as purportedly provided in the lease contract.

Osmeña said $500,000 converted into pesos at a rate of P40:$1 would already amount to P20 million.

“Twenty million pesos can already buy a brand-new helicopter in 2003. I am convinced that it was not a lease. Why pay $500,000 when you can buy one at $298,000? Or $500,000 for two at a discount. We know who’s lying,” he told reporters after the hearing.

Osmeña added that if the advance payment was indeed paid in cash with no paper trail, this would make the transaction more irregular.

The blue ribbon committee’s next agenda should be detection of the balance payment of $750,000 that Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, husband of former President Macapagal-Arroyo, allegedly paid later.

At the hearing, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that if the helicopters were indeed leased to LTA as Del Rosario claimed, Ignacio would have paid a value-added tax to the US government for this.

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“May I remind you that there is a 7.5 percent VAT to be paid if the lessor is a foreigner. This is based on the (US) National Internal Revenue Code that subjects a tax of 7.5 percent on gross rentals,” Lacson said.

“I do not remember paying that,” Del Rosario replied.

“You know, you’re so smart,” the senator lashed back. “You’re only feigning ignorance. Unfortunately, we are aware that you’re only fooling us.”

Sen. Francis Escudero wondered why Del Rosario failed to remind Ignacio about the obligatory VAT payments.

“Shouldn’t you as bookkeeper not obliged to remind your boss of the VAT payments? Did you not voice out your suspicion that if there is a lease, why were you not paying taxes like that for other properties? It did not even cross your mind?” Escudero asked.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, warned Del Rosario that “discrepancies” may arise when Iggy’s income tax documents are compared with the total P18 million paid for the lease of the helicopters.

“You said Iggy sent cash payments to Lionair every month but the transactions were not recorded in the LTA accounts since the lease was only entered into by Iggy,” Guingona said.

“Yes, but the advance lease payment was from LTA,” Del Rosario said.

“If the payments were really from Iggy, all the P18 million paid without documentation, there might be discrepancies in his income tax documents. That’s P18 million,” Guingona pointed out.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was able to establish through further grilling that LTA Inc. earned about P350,000 from rentals of its office spaces of its building on Perea Street in Makati City.

“Even if we put that at P400,000 a month or P4.8 million for one year. You do not record your billings to Lionair. While Lionair’s books would reflect the payments you made, your records do not reflect your payments,” he warned.

“Did Iggy (as LTA president) have other sources of income?” Enrile asked.

“I’m not aware of his other businesses,” answered Del Rosario, who was detained in the Senate building since Monday for evasive answers to senators investigating the helicopter scam.

She asked Ignacio to face investigators when he returns from London.

In tears, Del Rosario told reporters after a bathroom break during Thursday’s hearing of the blue ribbon committee that she missed her children and desperately wanted to go home.

Hours later, senators agreed to release Del Rosario, bookkeeper of the Arroyo-owned LTA Inc. for 11 years.

The move preempted the habeas corpus petition filed by Del Rosario’s lawyer with the Court of Appeals.

Escudero moved to lift the arrest order issued against Del Rosario in the final minutes of the hearing “so she can be with her family.” Lacson seconded the motion.

“You are free to go on the condition that when we call you, you will return. So ordered,” Guingona said as he banged the gavel.

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TAGS: FG, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, Graft, Lionair Inc, loyal bookkeeper, Rep. Ignacio 'Iggy' Arroyo, Rowena del Rosario, Sen. Francis Escudero, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, tax evasion charges
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