AN OFFICIAL of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)-Davao Region accused of extorting from a local businessman denied the graft and corruption charges filed against him.

Respondent Leo Ocampo Gonzales, BIR revenue officer, through his legal counsel Martin Delgra III, pleaded not guilty to charges of violation of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) during an arraignment before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 16 last Friday.

RTC Branch 16 presiding Judge Emmanuel Carpio then scheduled the pre-trial on April 1 this year and ordered the respondent and the private complainant Federico Barco, father of the owner of Bak-Bak Bar and Grill Roselle, to attend the pre-trial to present their respective evidence.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by Barco before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Office of the Ombudsman's Graft investigation and prosecution officer Hilde dela Cruz Likit found probable cause to charge Gonzales after the latter allegedly asked a settlement of P700,000 from the complainant who had to settle a tax liability of P1,304,160.75.

Likit also said the respondent told the complainant that he will only be issuing an official receipt of P90,000 and the remaining P610,000 may have gone to Gonzales.

Barco, in his complaint, said Gonzales threatened to close down the complainant's business establishment by claiming that the BIR's audit showed that Bak-Bak Bar and Grill has an average annual sales of P18,884,448, and that the complainant should settle the tax obligations by either giving P700,000 to the respondent or by paying the sum of P1,304,160.75 if he chose to pay his tax liabilities directly to the BIR office.

The complainant also claimed that the respondent tried to wring out a portion of Barco's 130-acre land in Arakan, North Cotabato.