Customs fixer, trader face tax raps
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Thursday filed tax evasion charges against Mark Ruben Taguba II, alleging that the confessed fixer who had linked Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, a son of President Duterte, to corruption in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) eluded paying over P850 million in taxes for 2016.
Testifying last August in a Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) from China through the BOC, Taguba also linked lawyer Manases Carpio, husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of the President, to corruption in the bureau.
The BIR also brought tax evasion charges against Cebu businessman Kenneth Dong, who was implicated in the drug smuggling, for his alleged failure to pay P11.4 million in income taxes for 2013 and 2016.
In a rare appearance at the Department of Justice (DOJ), BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay announced the filing of the complaints against Taguba and Dong, both of whom had been charged with drug trafficking along with seven other people over the shabu smuggling attempt through the BOC.
Result of Senate probe
“The [cases] we filed [were the] result of the congressional inquiry and other third party information culled by our BIR agents and operatives,” Dulay told a press briefing.
“[Going by] the testimonies and records derived from the Senate [inquiry] and other documents, we found out that Taguba described himself as a businessman engaged in the trucking business and in the financing of various ancillary ventures,” he said.
“[But] our investigation and the Senate investigation showed that Taguba was actually a ‘player’ or ‘fixer’ in the Bureau of Customs who facilitated the importation of goods of all kinds for a certain fee,” he said.
In 2016 alone, Dulay said Taguba earned nearly P1.3 billion, a figure derived from Taguba’s admission during the Senate inquiry that he collected at least P170,000 for each shipping container he arranged to be released.
In a press statement, the BIR said Dong contributed P3 million to the campaign of Sen. Joel Villanueva in 2016 and donated a total of P8 million to the campaign of Sen. Risa Hontiveros in 2013 and 2016.
Interestingly, the names of the two senators were blotted out with black ink in the press statement distributed to reporters moments before Dulay’s news conference.
When asked by the Inquirer why, Dulay said: “Are their names there? Because personally, I was validating if there was any information [about them].”
He added: “What I understand was Dong contributed for [the] election campaign, but I am not so sure about the [politicians who received money from him]. How did you know that [their names were] crossed out?”
Told that the press statement was distributed by his staff, Dulay said: “So that should not be an official version.”
Deputy Revenue Commissioner Arnel Guballa said information obtained by the agency from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed that Dong had helped finance the campaign of “several politicians.”
“As part of our evidence, we get these records from the Comelec,” Guballa said.
According to Dulay, Taguba used EMT Trading, Integrisy Trading and RO & SS Trading as consignees of cargo he facilitated for release in connivance with corrupt BOC staff, whom he allegedly paid P27,000 in “tara,” or bribe, per container.
He said records from the BOC showed that Taguba and his three “consignees-for-hire” facilitated the entry of more than 15,000 containers in the last two years.
In addition, Dulay said, Taguba failed to register his trucking business with the BIR and that he registered as a taxpayer with “single proprietorship” business only last year, or eight years after he supposedly started his trading business.
Despite his failure to declare his source of income, Dulay said, Taguba was able to buy vehicles, including a Chevrolet SUV, and 18 properties in Cavite.
As for Dong, Dulay said the businessman acquired several luxury vehicles and a townhouse in Parañaque City in 2013 and 2016 but did not pay his income tax for those years.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.