The Manila Times : The worst would be a gullible president

1 April 2022

By Rigoberto Tiglao | The Manila Times

Last of 2 parts

CHECK out presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso's recent statements, his recent screams on the campaign trail:

– "If I become president, I promise I will collect the P203 billion unpaid estate tax of the Marcos family";

– "The P203-billion estate tax could feed rice to 59.7 million Filipinos daily for a year if the Bureau of Internal Revenue is able to collect it."

Obviously on the same intellectual level as Isko is another candidate, Panfilo Lacson, who became was his echo chamber, pontificating that the "P203 billion estate taxes" won't be collected if Marcos Jr. wins the presidency.

There is no P203 billion unpaid estate tax. A single scheming devious person, retired justice Antonio Carpio, invented that astronomical "unpaid tax" number. This is another proof of that adage attributed to Mark Twain: "A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots."

What is wrong with these people? And they are running for president? That P203 billion figure is entirely Carpio's invention. He came up with that phantom figure in his newspaper column by computing the interest rates and penalties on P23 billion which Cory's Bureau of Internal Revenue claimed in 1990 was the Marcos family's estate taxes, otherwise known as inheritance taxes, levied on properties he supposedly left when he died in June 1989.

But the Marcos heirs had not acquired those assets. How could they? They were sequestered, ordered by the court to be returned to their owners (such as Edgardo Cojuangco Jr. and Roberto S. Benedicto) or auctioned off by government.

These are inheritance taxes, which means the Marcos heirs would have to pay that much if the Marcos properties were turned over to them. No turnover, no inheritance tax, and it is astonishing how two presidential candidates can't seem to understand this.

Panic

At that time, the Cory regime was in a panic to make sure that the Marcos heirs would not be able to get the strongman's properties after he died in June 1989. This was an imperative for the Yellows, since four years after the EDSA uprising, their hold on power was tenuous, with military mutineers launching coup after coup. Especially with Cory's poor governance, the Marcos forces were fast gaining strength they seemed to be in a position to win the 1992 elections. (Indeed, if the Marcos votes had not been split with Edgardo Cojuangco and Imelda both running, there would have been a Marcos counterrevolution at that time.)

The BIR, however, included as Marcos properties to be levied the inheritance taxes even those assets sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government. Why such a boo-boo?

First, because the Cory's BIR didn't really know what were Marcos' properties, and believe it or not, as Imelda Marcos had told the court, he had not executed a last will and testament — which would have declared this and this property belongs to Imelda, that to Bongbong, etc.

Second and more importantly, Cory instructed the BIR to come up with an obviously astronomical figure — P23 billion — as the inheritance tax, so the Marcos heirs would not be able to raise, even if they had, as Cory believed, the fabled Yamashita gold. It was easy for the crazy BIR guys to do it: Just take the word (i.e., propaganda) of the PCGG that the Marcos properties were worth over P100 billion (excluding the alleged Swiss bank deposits).

Inheritance

Since the inheritance tax was computed at that time at 20 percent (reduced under the Train Law to just 6 percent) of the value of the assets-to-be-inherited, voila, the taxes purportedly totaled P23 billion. That is, if the Marcos assets, which were sequestered, were to be transferred to them.

It was in reality a ruthless operation of the Cory regime. The often repeated claim that the "assessment" was "final and executory" (and that this has been affirmed by the Supreme Court) is based on the BIR's allegation that the Marcoses failed to reply to the assessment 30 days after it was served in September 1990.

To whom was it served? To a clueless caretaker at the Marcoses' practically abandoned residence in San Juan, who most probably put the BIR documents in his aparador for safekeeping until his employers returned. Why "abandoned"? Because after the Marcoses were shanghaied to Hawaii in February 1986, the Cory government banned them from coming home, refusing to issue them passports. The Cory government in fact allowed the Marcoses to return to their country only in October 1991 to finally bury the strongman's remains— on condition that he be buried immediately in his birth town — Batac, Ilocos Norte.

BIR list

There is no unpaid inheritance tax of P203 billion, as the Marcos estate has not been given control of assets in that BIR list, such as La Carlota Sugar Mills, Liwayway Publishing Inc., Manila Golf and Country Club shares, and even the Manila Bulletin.

Didn't Isko (and Lacson) first study this issue before they went to town screaming "unpaid taxes, Marcos has unpaid taxes!"? Didn't they stop and pause to think: "Why has this gross tax evasion issue emerged only now, when the Fidel Ramos and especially the Benigno Aquino 3rd regimes left no stone unturned to find some dirt on the Marcoses and on his political heir, Bongbong? Why on earth did they believe Carpio who has a long track record of twisting facts and legalities to come up with colossal deceptions?

Why the heck did Isko believe his advisers Lito Banayo and Ernest Ramel who first told him about this "unpaid estate taxes," both of who have no track record of 1) solid propaganda work; and 2) intelligence? Didn't they have any common sense as to consult past BIR heads?

With Isko's gullibility, I won't be surprised if Carpio tells him the Chinese will invade the Philippines before election day, and he'll be running around demanding the Philippine Army immediately be mobilized for war.

Gullible

This episode though is a reminder to voters of that criterion very necessary for a president: he must not be gullible. From my studies (as a reporter) on the past six presidents, it is even better for the Philippines to have a corrupt president, rather than a dumb one.

With due respect to the dead, the two Aquino presidents were our most gullible presidents, who believed in whatever was whispered to them by schemers in their Cabinet or inner circle who went on to become among the country's secret billionaires. All types of schemers and con men will flock to a president, disguising themselves as crusaders and real servants of the people, to convince him or her that what they propose will be good for the country.

One thing which certainly contributes to a president's ability to judge the people around him is the extent of his experience in an executive position in government. Isko and Lacson obviously have had not enough time in executive positions. No wonder.