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Manny Pacquiao says bank accounts frozen over P2.2-B tax evasion case

(Updated 8:58 a.m., Nov. 27) Two days after his dramatic boxing comeback in Macau, Manny Pacquiao faced a more formidable opponent at home, after his bank accounts were reportedly frozen in relation to a P2.2-billion tax case.

Saying that even thieves are better treated by the government, the boxing champion said that he will have to borrow money to help Yolanda victims. Pacquiao is expected to visit Leyte this week.

"Inihabla po ako ng BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) ng P2.2-billion tax case na wala pong basehan," Pacquiao said in a press briefing Tuesday. 
"Huwag po sana akong i-single out at personalin dahil hindi po ako magnanakaw," Pacquiao added, noting he "worked hard" to earn his assets. 
After returning to the Philippines with his boxing career back on the upswing after a victory over American Brandon Rios on Sunday in Macau, Pacquiao was greeted with a news report that his assets were frozen.
On Tuesday, the Manila Bulletin newspaper reported that the Court of Tax Appeals' (CTA) First Division issued the order two weeks ago, but it only became known on Monday.

According to the Manila Bulletin, the tax case stemmed from the supposed failure of Pacquiao’s accountant to report in his income tax returns (ITR) the multi-million-dollar taxes collected by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from his prize winnings for the years 2008 to 2009, reportedly amounting to $28 million.

What freeze order?

But in a separate interview with GMA News Online on Tuesday, Margaret Guzman, CTA clerk of court, denied that the CTA First Division – which handles the boxing icon's tax case – issued such a freeze order.

Guzman said the tax court is indeed hearing a tax evasion case against Pacquiao filed by the BIR last August 1, but has not yet issued any order to freeze the boxer's bank accounts.

The case stems from a BIR assessment that alleged the Pacquiaos had incurred "deficiency income and value-added tax" from 2008 to 2009, worth P2.2 billion.
"It wasn't the court that froze the accounts of spouses Pacquiao, contrary to the news," Guzman said, adding that the news reports were probably referring to an order issued by the BIR to the banks.
"The BIR has the power to issue warrants of garnishment separate and distinct from a court order freezing accounts," Guzman said.
She said the Pacquiaos filed a motion last October 18 to lift the said "warrants of distraint and levy, and garnishment."

Guzman said the CTA is set to resume its proceedings for the tax case on December 5, during which it would hear the counter evidence to be presented by government against Pacquiao's motion to lift the warrant of garnishment.

The CTA First Division is chaired by presiding Justice Roman del Rosario.

Thieves get away

Pacquiao said he provided information on his income to the BIR, but the bureau ignored it.
“The BIR claims I earned more than what I actually did, without any evidence to back it up. They ignored information given by Top Rank and HBO and insisted I have earned more.  My lawyers have given them all the info that they want and they still refuse to believe. I really don't know why I am being singled out,” Pacquiao said.
“Hindi naman ako tumatakas. Alam nila yung ginagawa nila,” Pacquiao added, implying that he felt he was a victim of politicking.
Pacquiao commented on how those engaged in corruption in government get away with their sins, while he is being persecuted.
"Nagpabugbog ako, kumita ako, kinuha ng gobyerno. Pero pag nagnakaw ka [di naman nakakasuhan.] Wala pa akong nakitang nagnakaw ng marami, pero na-garnish lahat ng pera," he said.
The solon said he is mulling over the idea of asking for help from his compatriots in the House of Representatives to issue a resolution to dismiss his case. 
Revenue officials noted that Pacquiao, a Filipino citizen and congressional representative of Sarangani province, is required to declare in his ITR all his earnings. 
Pacquiao's lawyers countered that the boxer did not include remittances to IRS worth around $8.4 million in his income statement due to existing treaty between the Philippines and the United States that disallows double taxation, the report noted. 
The boxer added that the BIR order was "arbitrary" and its assessment unreasonable as it is greater than the boxing champ's net worth.

But the BIR argued the tax debts have become "demandable... and collectible," as Pacquiao has been ignoring a final assessment notice sent to him.  
"Kasama 'yung properties ko [sa garnishment]. 'Di natin magagalaw [ang mga ito]," Pacquiao said during the press briefing. 
The boxer, who was preparing to visit the typhoon-devastated city of Tacloban, said he borrowed money for the relief operations. 
"Umutang po ako ng pera upang makatulong sa mga nasalanta ng bagyo dahil ginarnish ng BIR ang aking bank accounts," Pacquiao said. 
"Huwag po kayong mag-alala diyan sa Tacloban. Darating at darating ako kahit mangutang ako ulit. Naghahanda pa po kami," he added.

Case pending for two years

In an interview on GMA Network's Unang Balita on Wednesday, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said Manny Pacquiao's tax case has been pending for about two years now and that the revenue agency has given the boxer every opportunity to address his tax liability.

Henares said the BIR had issued a notice of levy to Pacquiao to inform him of his tax liability.

The BIR also denied that Pacquiao's bank accounts were frozen.

In a report on GMA News' State of the Nation newscast on Tuesday, Atty. Paul Velasco of the BIR litigation department said there is a pending motion in court to stop the BIR from collecting on the alleged tax deficiency of WBO welterweight champion Pacquiao.
Velasco said while the motion is pending Pacquiao should still be able to access his bank deposits.

Not harassment
Malacañang, meanwhile, distanced itself from the issue.
"We are a government of laws not of men. The Internal Revenue Code provides for procedures on collection so this matter is best addressed by the Court of Tax Appeals," Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) head Herminio Coloma Jr. said during a press conference on Tuesday.

"Harassment is not in our agenda... CTA's action is in accordance with Internal Revenue Code. Citizens may avail themselves of appropriate legal remedies," the Palace official added.
Pacquaio was the 36th top tax payer in 2012, paying a toal of P22 million in income tax, BIR data showed. He ranked 158th for paying P6.1 million in income taxes in 2011. 
In 2008, Pacquiao paid over P125 million in income tax, making him the top taxpayer that year.
Pacquiao’s tax payments declined to some P7 million in 2009 and P9.190 million in 2010, BIR data also showed. – with reports by Mark Merueñas/ Patricia Denise Chiu/Kimberly Jane Tan/Siegfrid O. Alegado/VS/HS/KG, GMA News