Duterte gov’t told to seize Marcos bank accounts

 Duterte gov’t told to seize Marcos bank accounts

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

A PARTY-list group on Monday asked the Finance department to seize the bank accounts of the administrators and beneficiaries of the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos for failing to pay billions of pesos in taxes in the past two decades.

In a letter to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay, the Akbayan Party-list, founded by victims of the late strongman’s martial rule, said seizing the bank accounts of the Marcoses would help the government collect their unpaid estate taxes, which have ballooned to P204 billion due to interest and other penalties.

“By garnishing the bank accounts, the Republic of the Philippines can immediately get the P204-billion unpaid estate tax debt of the Marcoses, which could go a long way during this pandemic,” it said.

Akbayan said demand letters issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the past showed that the tax assessments had become final and executory.

“Clearly, the above persons are delinquent taxpayers, and it is incumbent upon the government to collect immediately the total amount due,” it said, referring to the late dictator’s immediate family members — his wife Imelda, son Ferdinand “Bongbong” and daughters Imelda “Imee” and Irene — and the estate administrators.

“We appeal to the Department of Finance and BIR to send notices of garnishment to all banks in the Philippines and proceed from there in recovering the funds due the Filipino people,” it added.

Marcos, Jr.’s lawyer Victor D. Rodriguez did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

Akbayan said the law does not stop the tax agency from seizing the bank accounts of the Marcos family. “We are also aware that no temporary restraining order or injunction may be issued against the BIR.”

“Upon receipt of the warrant of garnishment, the bank shall turn over to the BIR commissioner so much of the bank accounts as may be sufficient to satisfy the claim of the government,” Akbayan said, citing the country’s tax law.

Michael Henry Ll. Yusingo, a lawyer and a research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center, said the BIR must explain to Congress why it has failed to collect the taxes.

“The erring officials must be penalized,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat, noting that this sets a bad precedent and emboldens tax evaders.

Political analysts and historians have decried an alleged effort to revise the country’s history about the late dictator by putting him in a good light.

Marcos, Jr. is leading in presidential opinion polls. His sister Imee is a senator, while their mother Imelda had been a congresswoman who represented their hometown in Ilocos Norte for most of the time since she came back to the Philippines three decades ago.

His son Sandro is seeking to represent Ilocos Norte in Congress, a position that his grandmother held for more than 20 years.

“Civil society must not relent in making sure the Marcos estate tax is collected and that the proper history of the Marcos dictatorship, including the Martial law period, is written in our textbooks, regardless of whoever is in the administration after the elections,” Mr. Yusingco said. “We cannot just rely on our political class to attain this objective for us.”

Legal experts including former Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio worry that the government would never recover the dictator’s ill-gotten wealth if his son becomes president.

Former Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Ruben Carranza earlier said President Rodrigo R. Duterte should do more than ask the country’s tax agency why the taxes have remained unpaid for decades.

Mr. Carranza, who now works as a senior expert at the International Center for Transitional Justice, was involved in a Supreme Court case where $678-million in Swiss deposits of the Marcos couple were found to have been illegally obtained.

He earlier said the late strongman’s son is aware of his family’s stolen wealth because he has been a key administrator of the Marcos estate since his father died in exile in the US in 1989.

He said Mr. Marcos was already 40 years old when the PCGG — created in the 1980s to recover ill-gotten assets of his father and his cronies — discovered in 1998 the $2 million worth of assets deposited by his late father with Merrill Lynch Securities in New York in 1972 under the Panamanian corporation Arelma S.A.

Mr. Carranza said it was the son who answered questions about the content of the Swiss bank accounts during court proceedings.

The dictator stole as much as $10 billion (P522 billion) from the Filipino people, according to government estimates, earning him a Guinness World Record for the “greatest robbery of a government.”