DOJ sum­mons Rappler ex­ecs in P133-M tax raps

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - Edu Punay

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) has sum­moned top ex­ec­u­tives of on­line news out­fit Rappler to an­swer the P133-mil­lion tax eva­sion charge filed by the Bu­reau of In­ter­nal Rev­enue (BIR) last month.

In a sub­poena signed by As­sis­tant State Prose­cu­tor Ze­na­mar Macha­con-Ca­parros, the agency or­dered Rappler pres­i­dent Maria Ressa and trea­surer James Bi­tanga to ap­pear be­fore the panel of pros­e­cu­tors and sub­mit their counter-af­fi­davits.

The panel has set the hear­ings on April 24 and May 7 at the DOJ of­fice in Manila.

“You are hereby warned that fail­ure on your part to com­ply with this sub­poena shall be con­sid­ered as a waiver to present your de­fense and the case shall be con­sid­ered sub­mit­ted for res­o­lu­tion based on the ev­i­dence on record,” read the sub­poe­nas, which were is­sued last April 11 and re­ceived by the par­ties ear­lier this week.

The BIR filed the com­plaint against Rappler Hold­ings Corp. (RHC) and its of­fi­cers last March 8 af­ter its in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed a pos­si­ble tax li­a­bil­ity of the con­tro­ver­sial on­line news com­pany.

It specif­i­cally ac­cused Rappler of vi­o­la­tion of the Na­tional In­ter­nal Rev­enue Code by will­ful at­tempt to evade or de­feat tax and for de­lib­er­ate fail­ure to sup­ply cor­rect and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion in its an­nual in­come tax (IT) re­turn and value added tax (VAT) re­turns for 2015.

“As con­se­quence of its acts and omis­sions, the ag­gre­gate tax li­a­bil­ity of RHC amounted to P133,841,305.75 bro­ken down as fol­lows: IT–P91,320,481.08 and VAT–P42,520,824.67,” read the com­plaint.

BIR said its probe showed that RHC pur­chased com­mon shares from Rappler Inc. worth P19,245,975 be­fore it is­sued and sold Philip­pine De­posi­tary Re­ceipts (PDRs) to two for­eign firms worth P181,658,758.67.

The bu­reau said RHC used the same com­mon shares it pur­chased from Rappler Inc. as the un­der­ly­ing share of the PDRs for profit and trans­mit­ted eco­nomic rights to the PDR hold­ers.

It fur­ther al­leged that RHC is sub­ject to in­come tax and VAT, be­ing a dealer in se­cu­ri­ties. How­ever, the an­nual ITR and VAT re­turns for 2015, ac­cord­ing to the BIR, does not re­flect any IT and VAT from the PDR trans­ac­tion.

The for­eign own­ers of Rappler have re­port­edly do­nated their shares to lo­cal stock­hold­ers to com­ply with the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment.

The news out­fit ear­lier claimed that the cases are part of ha­rass­ment by the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion due to its per­sis­tent neg­a­tive re­ports about the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The BIR case was filed af­ter the Se­cu­rity and Ex­change Com­mis­sion can­celled its in­cor­po­ra­tion for al­leged vi­o­la­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional ban on for­eign own­er­ship in me­dia com­pa­nies. –

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