• Reading time:8 mins read

Aquino runs after country’s biggest taxpayer

And who is the country’s biggest tax-payer ever, paying more than Filipino tycoons?

Manny Pacquiao.

But that doesn’t matter at all for President Aquino and Bureau of Internal Revenue head Kim Jacinto-Henares, who claim he is a tax cheat.

After all, it also doesn’t matter for them that after EDSA I, it has only been during Pacquiao’s fights that we all have intensely felt being members of this community we call a nation.

For them, it doesn’t count for anything that “Pacman’s” rags-to-riches saga inspires millions of young, poor Filipinos, and even future generations, to strive for excellence, to believe that with sheer hard work, they can break the country’s caste system.

For these two gun aficionados, it doesn’t matter that Pacquiao sent the message to the world that a Filipino can be among the greatest boxers on the planet, a world champion in eight divisions and now in the pantheon of humanity’s greatest athletes ever. It doesn’t matter that such a Filipino hero appears very rarely in our modern history, which we need so much as a nation, what with memories of Flash Elorde of the 1960s and the legendary Pancho Villa of the 1920s having faded for this generation.

Source of basic data: BIR annual lists of top 500 individual taxpayers. Notes. Data for Lopezes is the average for Manuel, Oscar and Eugenio 3rd. For the Ayalas: average for Jaime and Fernando Zobel de Ayala. Only Pacquiao, Pangilinan and Henry Sy were in the BIR listings for all five years.

Source of basic data: BIR annual lists of top 500 individual taxpayers. Notes. Data for Lopezes is the average for Manuel, Oscar and Eugenio 3rd. For the Ayalas: average for Jaime and Fernando Zobel de Ayala. Only Pacquiao, Pangilinan and Henry Sy were in the BIR listings for all five years.

It doesn’t matter for them that Pacquiao is the most well-known living Filipino in the world, so much admired that a Time magazine article that included him in its list of the 100 most influential people of the world waxed poetic: “Pacquiao has a myth of origin equal to that of any Greek or Roman hero. He leaves the Philippines to make it even bigger, conquering the world again and again . . .”

For Aquino, Pacquiao is just this boxer from some town in Mindanao who, after a fight abroad, would always go to his hated predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be profusely honored. Pacquiao even had the gall to ignore him when he became president, and ran against his candidates. Why, he could even become loco, and make a bid to run for vice-president or senator, a big headache for him especially if his sister Kristina decides to run for those posts.

BIR has been politicized

It isn’t the first time that the BIR, like other institutions under Aquino’s term, has been politicized, “weaponized” against the president’s perceived enemies. It’s the first time though in our nation’s history. Even the dictator Marcos cringed from using the BIR as a weapon against his enemies.

Remember that Henares was one of the first “witnesses” Aquino mobilized in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and was even reportedly within Malacañang’s “core group” that plotted his removal by whatever means.

To incite the mob against Corona, she ordered an investigation into his wealth, concluding in a few days that the Chief Justice’s assets didn’t match his income, ignoring the fact that he had a corporate law practice before he joined government.

She testified that Corona had not submitted his income tax returns for certain years, only for the defense to explain that the Supreme Court submits all the tax returns of its justices and its entire staff in the so-called alpha lists.

For Henares, pleasing his boss at this time has become crucial, as she could still be Aquino’s last appointee to the Supreme Court, to be done April 2016 when justice Martin Villarama resigns. When she gets that post, we will all have forgotten that that’s her reward for attacking Pacquiao to bankrupt him, even put him in jail.

At first, she thought she was a shoo-in for Corona’s post because Mar Roxas together with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and his big business network were intensely lobbying for her. After being nominated for that post, she had even boasted then: “I have an advantage over all the other candidates.”

She was told though that Aquino would appoint Lourdes Sereno, so she cleverly refused the nomination, hoping that there were after all still two slots the president would fill up before he steps down.

But was Aquino’s appointment in 2012 of young academic Marivic Leonen as associate justice his clear message to Henares that she wasn’t doing the task she was assigned to do when she was appointed way back in July 2012?

What was that task?

Consider this: The ink of her July 15, 2010 appointment papers had not dried yet, and she had not even moved from her old office to the chairman’s 5th floor office when Henares issued Pacquiao on July 27, 2010 a “Letter of Authority,” so innocuously called but which really tells a taxpayer that he is guilty of tax evasion unless he can prove he is innocent. That was the start of the project to attack and impound all of Pacquiao’s assets.

How could Henares in a few days time after she was appointed BIR chief decide that Pacquiao was a tax cheat, and order him investigated?

She certainly would have, if Aquino had given her the marching orders to do so. Pacquiao’s head may have been punched a thousand times so he could make money, but that didn’t make him stupid. How could he not have thought that Aquino and Henares were persecuting him?

“Pacquiao should set an example,” Henares arrogantly to media, by which she means that he should be paying his taxes.

But he has, and if not for the fact that it sets a terrible precedent that the BIR can be weaponized against Filipinos Aquino didn’t like, Henares’ attack on Pacquiao is a Kafkaesque theatre of the absurd: You’re the biggest taxpayer, but still they want more.

Pacquiao is the country’s biggest taxpayer for the years 2008 to 2012, based on the data in BIR’s annual list of “Top 500 Individual Taxpayers” which has been releasing for those years. The person whom the BIR accuses as a tax cheat paid a total of P170 million in those five years.

Biggest taxpayer in our history

I’d bet Pacquiao is even the country’s biggest taxpayer ever in our history.

Aquino and Henares should be pinning a medal on Pacquiao as the biggest taxpayer. Instead, they want more. And if he can’t cough up P2.2 billion, he and his family would be thrown out of their houses to the streets, and he could even be jailed for two years for tax evasion.

They have shamed Pacquiao in the world, to the delight of the West. Read the reports of newspapers abroad, from US Today to the UK Daily Telegraph one can sense their gloating over the problems of this brown boxer who thrashed their best fighters. Note Bloomberg’s subtle sarcasm: “Manny Pacquiao, the world-champion boxer and a national icon in the Philippines, had his accounts frozen as authorities seek to collect $50.3 million in unpaid taxes.”

What does it mean for Pacquiao to have paid P170 million in taxes in five years?

It means that he paid more taxes than any tycoon in the country, defining that term as inclusion in Forbes’ magazine’s list of the richest Filipinos.

Details of that on Wednesday, and to discuss the important, obvious issue: Even if Pacquiao has been the country’s biggest taxpayer in our history, that certainly doesn’t give him the right to reduce his taxes.

But did he really cheat on his tax returns? Forget the technicalities some writers have argued, and the answer is so obvious, that you’d realize that this attack on a living national hero is a quintessential demonstration of this administration’s depraved tuwid-na-daanmentality.

Ignore those news items Malacañang has floated that there has been muted defense of Pacquiao, especially by netizens. But the elite or even the middle classes never really cared about Pacquiao. But he is the hero of the masses throughout the archipelago and abroad, and Aquino’s attack on him would prove to be his biggest blunder.