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PNP, NBI go after Ligots

Authorities believe wanted couple still in the country

Tracker teams have been deployed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to search for former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda, the PNP spokesperson, Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., said on Saturday.

Also Saturday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to hunt down and arrest the couple after Bureau of Immigration (BI) records showed that they had not left the country.

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Ligot served as comptroller from 1999 to 2001 under the then Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Angelo Reyes. He and his wife are subjects of arrest warrants issued by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) for alleged tax evasion, with bail of P20,000 set for each.

“Yes, we have tracker teams from the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) who are [assigned] to go after these wanted persons,” Cruz said in a text message.

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But he declined to say if the PNP knew the couple’s whereabouts, and if indeed they were still in the country. He said these were “operational data” to which he did not have access.

The CIDG deputy, Chief Supt. Benito Estipona, confirmed that teams from the agency’s National Capital Region office and its Detection and Special Operations Division had been sent to find the Ligots.

“They are believed to be still in the country,” Estipona said. Asked if the search was concentrated in Metro Manila, he said the teams had also fanned out to the provinces.

BI records

Citing data from the computer section of the immigration bureau, BI spokesperson Maria Antonette Bucasa-Mangrobang said Ligot last left the country by plane on April 2, 2000, and returned two days later.

“[W]e do not have any departure record after that,” Mangrobang said.

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She said there were two entries for “Erlinda Ligot” in the BI database—one for “Erlinda dela Cruz Ligot” who left the country on Aug. 2, 2005, and returned on Aug. 13, 2005, and another for “Erlinda Ligot y Yambao” who left on June 26, 2010, and returned on June 30 that same year.

“[She returned] with an allow-departure order so I suppose this (Erlinda Ligot y Yambao) is Mrs. Ligot. She arrived on June 30, 2010. After that, [there is] no record that she departed,” Mangrobang said, adding:

“For all [Philippine] international airports, this is the record as of this time… They are in the country.”

But Mangrobang also said the BI was still checking records from Philippine seaports, which are “manually entered” into the bureau’s database.

She said the check would take “one to two weeks.”

Probable cause

In a resolution dated Sept. 28, the CTA’s 2nd division found probable cause for Ligot and his wife to be put on trial for not reporting income earned in 2003 and for not paying taxes on that income.

According to an investigation by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the couple failed to declare P164.3 million that they made in 2003, making them liable for P153.3 million in taxes.

Ligot is the second ranking military officer to be charged with tax evasion after Carlos F. Garcia, another former military comptroller whose unexplained wealth triggered a Senate inquiry into corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

But the military said it had no information on the couple’s whereabouts. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, chief of the AFP’s public affairs office, said on Friday that Ligot “is already retired and no longer under our jurisdiction.”

Asked to comment on the arrest warrants issued on the Ligots, Burgos said: “It’s the rule of law taking its course. It’s part of due process.”

The military “is watching the progress of the case because it is part of the reformation” process, he said, adding that the AFP would cooperate with any investigating body to ferret out the truth.

Ruel Lasala, NBI deputy director for intelligence services, told the Inquirer that agents in his unit had been sent to the Ligots’ known addresses in Metro Manila, to no avail.

Lasala said, however, that the Ligots might surface on their own given the small bail amount that they needed to post for their temporary liberty.

“I think they will proceed to the court on their own and just post bail. Maybe after the long weekend,” Lasala said. “Even then, we are tracking them down for the service of the arrest warrants.”

P35K a month

Ligot has been the subject of various investigations since former military budget officer George Rabusa accused him of involvement in a military fund scam.

He retired in 2004 with a monthly salary of at least P35,000.

On July 14, the Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the filing of a tax evasion case against Ligot, his wife, and his brother-in-law Edgardo Yambao.

Based on the DOJ resolution, the Ligots are charged with 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 an attempt to evade payment of taxes from 2002 to 2004.

On March 10, the BIR filed a complaint before the justice department accusing the Ligots of owing the government P428.07 million in unpaid taxes from 2001 to 2004, with Ligot having a tax deficiency of P290.24 million and Erlinda, P137.83 million.

The BIR said that while he was still on active duty in the military, Ligot made several deposits and investments of substantial amounts, including deposits of $1.28 million and $1.6 million with Citibank, and bought several properties in the provinces of Bukidnon and Rizal, a condominium unit in Makati City, and a luxury vehicle.

It said Erlinda Ligot also made a deposit of $200,000 with Citibank.

The couple are facing a separate forfeiture case at Sandiganbayan, which was filed against them in 2005 for allegedly amassing P135.28 million in unexplained wealth. Their children (Paulo, Riza and Miguel), Ligot’s sister Miguela Ligot-Paragas, and Yambao are their codefendants. With reports from Jeannette I. Andrade and Inquirer Research

First posted 1:19 am | Sunday, October 30th, 2011

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TAGS: Erlina Ligot, former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, Ligots, Philippine National Team, PNP tracker teams, tax evasion charges
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