‘Singling out’ Pacman

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013


LIKE many other issues laced with politics in this country, the tax case of Rep. Manny Pacquiao has some polarizing effect on the public. This one is a conflict between the Filipino boxing legend who is also a politician and the government (or the Aquino administration) and specifically the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Given the kind of personalities involved in the conflict, people consider it on various levels. The most obvious is the political level.

I am not surprised that those who are siding with Pacquiao and criticizing the BIR and, by extension President Noynoy Aquino, are the usual suspects. I am referring to PNoy’s critics who have remained bitter after the candidates they supported for president in 2010 lost to Aquino. Their bitterness shows every time they pick an issue to hurl at PNoy: they always attach the insults Abnoy, BS (bullshit), etc. to him.

By the same token, many of those who are defending PNoy supported his candidacy or voted for him in 2010.

But I won’t dwell much on the political level because that will not bring us anywhere.

The critics’ minds and emotional quotient are already set. They didn’t listen to pro-Aquino arguments before, so why would they listen now? Meanwhile, the minds of some Aquino supporters are already set also, although the rest (like me) are open-minded on PNoy issues.

Having said that, I am writing this for the non-fanatics out there.

First off, I could not blame the government, specifically BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, for ordering the garnishment of the Pacman’s bank accounts. If the timeline on the tax case released by Henares is true, then the boxer should share the blame for his woes.

Or if Pacquiao ignored the BIR for two years, then his attention should be called. By all indications, the garnishment of his bank accounts has indeed become the attention-getter. Now he and his promoter Bob Arum, who paid his taxes in the US, seem to be finally working fast to get documentary proof of those tax payments in 2008 and 2009.

I don’t totally buy the claim that the government is singling out Pacquiao. Instead, it proves that the Aquino administration is serious in going after those it felt are evading the payment of taxes. Even big personalities are hit. As Tagalos would say, walang sinasanto.

But I would share Pacquiao’s and his supporter’s misgivings. When he complained about not having been able to withdraw his money, he was correct in differentiating his case from those of wily tax-evaders and corrupt personalities. Indeed, the money being garnished was not stolen, like money now being kept in the banks by those accused of diverting billions of pesos in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Then what about those other billionaires in the country who are able to evade the paying of their taxes because they played with the weaknesses of the country’s judiciary and government bureaucracy? They are either untouched or have either won or have succeeded in delaying the resolution of the cases filed against them.

I agree that comparing Pacquiao’s case with those of big-time tax evaders would be like comparing apples and oranges. But many people do not dwell on legal mumbo-jumbo.

They see Pacquiao’s money being garnished and they see the politicians accused of raking earn millions of pesos in pork barrel money still able to withdraw their money in the banks to travel abroad and they find it unfair.

What I am saying is that if the Aquino administration wants to prevent this perception from surfacing, then it must show that it can also cripple financially those wily big-time tax evaders and crooks.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 03, 2013.

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