MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – The heads of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on Friday said all public officials, including Chief Justice Renato Corona, must declare their dollars as part of their cash in bank in their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
In an exclusive interview, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares denied the statement of a former BIR official who said Corona need not declare his foreign currency deposits because it would violate the Tax Code of the Philippines.
“The Tax Code has nothing to do with the SALN law. You have to report all accounts in your SALN and the presumption is the accounts are correct, but you have to report it,” she told ABS-CBNnews.com.
She noted that even corporations are required to declare the total balance of their foreign currency accounts. “You don’t have to say that the account is in BPI Tandang Sora or wherever but you have to declare it,” she said.
Henares rejected the claim of former BIR director Estrella Martinez that the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA) prohibits all public officials from declaring their dollar accounts.
“If that is her philosophy, that the FCDA [Foreign Currency Deposit Act] and Bank Secrecy Law exempts you from declaring, then it will cover all accounts including peso and you will not report anything,” she said.
She said Martinez’s statement was “strange”, coming from a former BIR official.
She also said Corona still has to declare the dollar accounts even if they turn out to be held in trust for someone else.
"Since the account is in his name, it is presumed to be his. If he is holding it for someone, he should have still put it down as his asset and then recognize a liability," she said.
"It still does not absolve CJ Corona from declaring the dollar deposits in his SALNs," she added.
'FCDA covers banks, not individuals'
Similarly, CSC Chairman Francisco Duque said the FCDA cannot be used to shield a public official from declaring his dollar deposits.
“It doesn’t stop him from declaring the peso equivalent. The FCDA is supposed to cover banks, not individuals. It doesn’t prohibit an individual from declaring his foreign currency accounts in his SALN,” he said in a separate interview.
Duque said the CSC will be discussing whether to include foreign currency accounts in the new SALN forms used by government officials. He said the issue will be discussed during a meeting of the technical working group on June 11.
Duque said the CSC is monitoring the Corona impeachment trial since it is exposing possible loopholes in the SALN law.
He described as a “gray area” the possibility that Corona might be holding the dollars in trust for someone else, a defense first posited by his lawyer Ramon Esguerra.
“If it’s not his, he doesn’t need to put it in his SALN. The problem is - he put in his name. He didn’t put Corona and his daughter or Corona and wife,” he said.
Corona is accused of failing to disclose properly his various bank accounts and real estate properties in his SALNs. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier said Corona had 82 accounts containing $10 million in "transactional balances" from 2003-2011.
CPA-lawyer claims law prohibits CJ to declare dollars
A former BIR official earlier claimed that Corona need not declare his dollar deposits in his SALNs because it is not included in his net worth.
Speaking to radio dzMM, former BIR Cordillera director Estrella Martinez said a person’s net worth is based on peso acquisitions and not dollars.
“Yung dollars, you don’t need to declare that in the SALNs because hindi kasama yan sa net worth…You need not declare it in your SALN because it already has a 20% withholding tax in the bank. However, the net worth is based on the regular income tax rate, which is 32%,” she said.
Martinez took exception to the use of a printed Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report in the impeachment trial. She said the document was not authenticated by the AMLC, which is a violation of the E-Commerce Act.
“Under the E-Commerce Act, any computer-generated report should be validated or authenticated by the person producing that document. I didn't see a marginal signature. For me, it's just a stack of paper. As far as I am concerned, I am also a lawyer and I have been there in the field for 32 years, dapat yang ganyang mga document pinirmahan yan because anybody can produce that kind of document,” she said.
“Maraming kaso na natalo ang BIR because they just used computerized documents,” she added.
Martinez also said she sees no need for Corona to sign a waiver to open his dollar accounts to the Senate impeachment court. She said signing a waiver would violate the law governing foreign currencies as well as Corona’s own right against self-incrimination.
“You cannot be a witness against yourself. The Chief Justice knows that and any lawyer for that matter knows that, the right against self-incrimination…I don’t know if he will waive (his right to bank secrecy). For me, if he signs a waiver, that is a violation of the law,” she said.