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Duterte asks Mighty Corp.owner to pay P3B

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/10 March) — President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to drop the tax evasion case against Mighty Corporation president Alexander Wongchuking but he must pay the government P3 billion.

During the “Meeting with the Local Chief Executives in Mindanao” at the SMX Convention Center Davao, Duterte said this was double compared to the previous offer of P1.5 billion to settle the issue.

He said he would rather make the cigarette firm owner pay instead of sending him to jail for falsification charges over alleged fake stamps.

Duterte said he is planning to use the money to develop the hospitals in Basilan and Sulu in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo in the national capital.

He assured that each medical facility will receive P1 billion for rehabilitation if Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez, Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, and Internal Revenue Commission Caesar Dulay would approve his proposal.

“Ang batas kasi (Because under the law), the tax evasion cases or tax liability can be compromised. The law allows it to be settled… Doblado na lang sabi ng mga (Make them double, said the businessmen). You consider fake stamps as part of the process of evading the taxes,” he said.

But he said some businessmen complained that even the P3 billion would not be enough if the government were to factor in the interests but added it would be up to Dominguez and Faeldon how much the government would impose against Wongchuking as penalty.

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In a statement issued on March 8, Mighty Corp. cried foul over the alleged bribe try to settle the fake stamps scandal.

On the bribery attempt allegedly perpetrated by Mighty Corporation, the company through its counsel Sigfrid Fortun categorically denied any occasion or participation by the company in the supposed incident. “Mighty has never taken part nor has it ever indulged in such activity especially with officers of the incumbent administration,” the statement read.

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It also said Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo was “a victim of misinformation hence he has unwittingly disparaged Mighty who has no connection to that bribe incident that occurred several years back.”

“The information on the matter as disclosed by presidential legal counsel Sal Panelo is wrong as the news on the matter pertained to an incident when President Duterte was still Mayor of Davao, the boxes of money used was promptly returned to the giver who was already on board a plane bound for Manila. Fortun said Mighty was never involved or identified as the giver of the bribe but another cigarette manufacturer unrelated to Mighty,” it said.

The firm also blamed the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s malfunctioning of “Taggant excise stamp validating devices which produced varying results when used today against its products that were seized in last Thursday’s unlawful raid in its warehouses in Pampanga.”

It claimed that Fortun declared that when the devices were used by BIR examiners on the confiscated boxes containing Mighty cigarettes, “they registered a green light indicating they were genuine stamps and, later, registered red or bogus marks for stamps in the same carton.”

“Worse, when the same device was used to test tax stamps on products of its competitors brought in by one of the agents, the device also turned red indicating that the competitors stamps were fake,” it said.

“In the same inspection proceedings conducted by joint teams from the BIR’s regional office in Pampanga and head office personnel, the devices either malfunctioned or could not read the tax stamps thereby making Fortun conclude that they were unreliable for purposes of assessing Mighty’s liability for tax fraud or deficiency in excise tax payments,” it added.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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