Gov't Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate P25.27-B Lucio Tan Tax Evasion Cases
Panaligan, Rey G., Manila Bulletin
Government lawyers, in behalf of the Filipino people, asked the Supreme Court over the weekend to reinstate before the trial court the nine tax evasion cases involving over P25.27 billion against businessman Lucio C. Tan and his associates.
In a 63-page petition, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) cited five errors committed by the Marikina City metropolitan trial court (MeTC), the regional trial court (RTC), and the Court of Appeals (CA) in dismissing the cases.
The criminal cases for tax evasion are titled "People of the Philippines versus Lucio C. Tan and the key officers of Fortune Tobacco Corp., Townsman Commercial, Inc., Landmark Sales and Marketing, Inc., Crimson Croker Distributors, Inc., Dagupan Combined Commodities, Inc., First Union Trading Corp., Carlsburg and Sons, Inc., Omar Ali Distributors, Inc., Oriel and Co., Inc., and Mt. Matutum Marketing Corp."
In a decision dated Aug. 29 and received by the OSG last Sept. 6, the CA affirmed the denial by the Marikina City RTC, on technicality, of the appeal made by the Department of Justice (DoJ) on the decision of the city's MeTC dismissing the nine tax evasion cases against Tan and his associates for lack of probable cause.
The OSG had 15 days to appeal the CA decision on a motion for reconsideration. But it chose to elevate the issue before the Supreme Court and asked for 30 days to do so. It beat the deadline when it filed its petition last Saturday.
Tan and his business associates at the Fortune Tobacco Corp. were held liable for allegedly defrauding the government of about P25.27 million in deficiency income, ad-valorem, and value-added taxes for 1990, 1991, and 1992.
The nine cases filed by the DoJ before the MeTC were dismissed for lack of probable cause and on the basis of the withdrawal of the charges by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) which filed the cases before the DoJ in 1993.
With the dismissal of the charges, the DoJ appealed the case before the RTC which denied the appeal, ruling that the petition was filed 11 days late.
The DoJ elevated the case to the CA which, not only affirmed the denial of the appeal before the RTC for being late, but also ruled on the validity of the dismissal of the charges by the MeTC for lack of probable cause.
The public's uproar on the CA dismissal of the DoJ petition had prompted President Estrada to create a four-man panel to look into the legal options and other remedies the government will take in the tax evasion cases.
The committee is composed of Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, Justice Secretary Artemio G. Tuquero, BIR Commissioner Dakila Fonacier, and Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez.
In the memorandum dated Sept. 4, the President expressed his "special concern" over the tax cases, particularly the dismissal of the charges of the MeTC, the denial of the government's appeal before the RTC, and the affirmance of the denial by the CA.
The creation of a committee "to put in perspective the aspects and issues that resulted in the dismissal of the government tax case against Tan," will also "help ensure transparency and firmness in any move which the administration may undertake to protect its interest."
The President directed the committee to submit within 10 days "a definitive recommendation as to what legal action and other remedies to be taken by the government, including the matter of elevation of the case to the Supreme Court."
The CA had ruled that the government's appeal from the MeTC decision that dismissed the nine tax evasion cases was filed beyond the period allowed by the rules.
"While there is no denial that taxes are the lifeblood of the government and should be collected without unnecessary hindrance, we are also mindful of the fact that...collection should be made in accordance with law as any arbitrariness will negate the very reason for government itself," the CA said. …