I was told release to me of “such confidential and sensitive data” must be cleared first
By Raissa Robles
When Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s senatorial candidate Larry Gadon assaulted me online in a filthy and obscene video that would shame his family and has led to calls for his disbarment, I noticed something he said while he was howling like a sex maniac.
“Ano’ng pinagsasabi mong hindi nagbayad si BBM ng taxes? May certification ‘yan galing sa BIR.” (What are you saying that Bongbong Marcos did not pay taxes? He has a certification from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.)
It turns out that the so-called “certification he was referring to was the one-page piece of paper that Bongbong’s spokesman Vic Rodriguez submitted as evidence to the Commission on Elections and showed to the media before Christmas.
I looked for the date it was issued – December 9, 2021 – and realized that the BIR had allegedly given Bongbong part of the Marcos tax data that I had requested from the tax agency on November 17, 2021. And which BIR had said it would release to me by December 8.
It’s like this. On 2016. President Rodrigo Duterte bragged in his State of the Nation Address that he had signed an executive order on Freedom of Information to “promote transparency and accountability in government.”
- So, on Nov 17, I invoked that FOI order and asked the BIR for a copy of Ferdinand Marcos junior’s tax records through the government’s FOI portal.
- An FOI officer wrote me back on November 19 – two days after my request – with the good news that they would “respond on or before Dec 08, 2021 03:07:44 PM, in accordance with the Executive Order’s implementing rules and regulations.” The FOI website, where I had submitted my request, even displayed a green check mark beside my request with the words – “request successful”.
What happened to my request? Nothing.
December 8 came and went. No e-mail came from the BIR. So I went back to the FOI website and discovered that an unnamed “BIR Collection Service Decision Maker/FOI Officer” had posted a note dated December 6 inside my FOI account saying it could not release any Marcos tax data to me, as promised, on December 8.
“Unfortunately,” the BIR Collection Service Decision Maker/FOI Officer told me, “ it is taking longer than expected to deal with your request because this Office is seeking a directive if we could provide such confidential and sensitive data.”
That’s right. The BIR considered Marcos’ tax records to be sensitive and confidential.
It is now public knowledge that on December 9, the BIR released part of “such confidential and sensitive data” – but only to the camp of Bongbong Marcos.
Was the suspension of the promised release of Marcos tax data to me by December 8 connected to the release of the BIR certification to the Bongbong Marcos camp on December 9?
Was the Bongbong camp release meant to pre-empt any outcome of my inquiry?
Why did Gadon verbally assault me, precisely on this so-called BIR “certification” when no one knew about the existence of such a certification except for them?
Did anyone inside the BIR inform the Marcos camp about my FOI requests on the Marcos taxes.
I’ve since looked at the “certification” that the BIR had issued Marcos – the same “certification” that Gadon was apparently referring to when he falsely accused me of knowing that such a certification had already been issued.
For the record, I did not know. How could I? The BIR was stonewalling me. Neither did the public know. The only ones who knew were the Marcos loyalists apparently.
Here’s what’s interesting. I believe the BIR certification to Bongbong and the agency’s initial acceptance of my FOI request – followed by the agency’s sudden reluctance to release similar data to me – now opens the door for the Comelec to summon BIR officials to testify on Bongbong Marcos’ tax cases.
Comelec should ask why Bongbong’s “BIR certification” made no mention whatsoever that these payments were made to satisfy the fines and deficiency taxes resulting from his four tax case convictions. In other words, the document merely listed that Marcos had paid amounts without staying what they were for.
After all, it wouldn’t be good during an election campaign for a candidate’s name to be in a document that mentions the words “criminal case” or “fine”, right?
There is also no attached piece of paper showing the computation of the unpaid fines and taxes, made by the BIR itself. The computation of fines and deficiency taxes that the Marcos camp showed earlier did not come from the BIR. It allegedly came from a prosecutor but the paper had no markings nor any signatures to show its authenticity.
BIR’s one-page issuance dated December 9 to Bongbong appears to be a certification that was tailor made for posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to peddle the lie that Bongbong Marcos had “fully paid” his taxes (”bayad na”) when in reality, these were court imposed FINES AND PAYMENTS OF TAX DEFICIENCIES arising from his FOUR COURT CONVICTIONS.
The “certification” makes no mention whatsoever of the purpose of these particular “payments”.
From my personal experience dealing with the BIR, BIR officials are fond not just of signing documents. They also rubber stamp these documents with seals of their particular unit and indicate the actual time they had signed. Sometimes, they even require documentary stamps to be placed on the documents.
This one-page document has no rubber stamp, no time stamp, no documentary stamp. Was it an accommodation given to Bongbong Marcos by BIR officials? Did the BIR Commissioner know about this?
Only another BIR official can attest to how legally authentic Bongbong’s certification is. And having submitted it to Comelec, it is now begging for authentication.
While I watch out for BIR’s decision whether or not to release Marcos’ tax data to me, watch out for my Part 2.