Two former officials of the Bureau of Customs and a newspaper publisher filed graft and other criminal charges Wednesday against former President Benigno Aquino III and ex-Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. The charges were filed for the respondents' alleged failure to collect some P100 billion in taxes from Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. (PSPC) for gasoline shipments from 2004 to 2009.
Aquino and Purisima were charged with violation of Section 3(e) and 4 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Section 10 of RA 9851 in relation to Executive Order No. 226 or the Institutionalization of the Doctrine of Command Responsibility in all government offices, and Sections 3601 and 3604 of the Tariff and Customs Code, which pertains to smuggling. The complainants said Aquino deserves to be held liable for the mess under the concept of command responsibility, since he has direct control and supervision over government officials. Also charged were PSPC Chairman and President Edgar Chua, Vice President for Communications Robert Kanapi, Country Tax Manager Nigel Avila and other John Does. This is the fifth case filed against Aquino since he stepped down from office on June 30. He is facing three other complaints in connection with the botched Mamasapano raid and another one over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The complainants in the graft case, former Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, former BOC district collector Juan Tan, and Headlines News Today publisher Lourdes Aclan, accused Aquino and Purisima of ignoring PSPC’s supposed failure to pay the right amount of taxes for their gasoline shipments which were supposedly wrongfully declared as non-taxable products.
“[T]he government is deprived, as it is continuously being deprived, of the huge amount of money, which would have been collected, had they not been remiss in the performance of their official functions,” they said. The complaint stemmed from PSPC’s supposed failure to pay P7.348 billion in excise taxes and value added taxes for its imports from 2004 to 2009. The company was accused of changing the tariff classification of its unleaded gasoline shipment to tetrapropylene and subsequently, alkylate, which are not subject to taxes. In 2011, Aclan wrote Purisima informing him of then-Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon’s refusal to demand payment for PSPC’s alkylate shipments. The then-Finance Secretary said the matter was within jurisdiction of the district collector. The following year, Aclan wrote Aquino to inform him of Purisima and the BOC’s supposed refusal to collect taxes from PSPC. “However, even with his authority and power to order Secretary Purisima, Comm. Biazon and Col. Benavidez to act on the matter and demand the payment from PSPC, President Aquino ignored complainant Aclan’s letter with indifference, as the PSPC controvers was left unanswered until he stepped down from office on June 30, 2016,” the complainants said. By the complainants’ estimates, the government has already lost over P100 billion inclusive of interest, surcharge and 800-percent penalty on PSPC. Based on their actions, the complainants believe Aquino, Purisima and their other co-accused “were silenced into submission” by PSPC. “Since 2011, the former President and DOF Secretary did nothing but allowed PSPC to continuously use the P7.348 billion and P1.99 billion government revenue for its own use and benefits, thereby giving it unwarranted benefits, and causing undue grave injury to the government,” they said. As of posting time, GMA News Online is contacting the respondents for their comments.