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House panel directs BIR to scrutinize Sereno tax records

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By Ellson A. Quismorio

The House Committee on Justice has tasked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to form a team that would specifically investigate whether or not Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been paying the correct taxes based on her income.

Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chairman, issued the directive to newly installed BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa Tuesday during the resumption of the hearing on the determination of probable cause on the impeachment complaint filed against the Chief Justice.

Guballa attended the proceedings as a resource person.

He admitted early in the hearing that there was no formal investigation regarding the income tax returns (ITRs) of Sereno, who is an appointee of the previous administration.

“We asked from you a report, a summary report that will present all of these incomes, vis-a-vis tax payments. Perhaps an investigation is the proper mode of obtaining all of these information in a comprehensive manner,” Umali told the BIR official.

“The [investigation] report is what’s important. Dahil wala pa ito (Because there’s none yet), we can dispense with their presence [in this hearing],” added Umali.

The BIR was given a rather tight deadline of just 12 days, or until February 19, to finish the task after Vice Chairman Leyte 3rd District Rep. Vicente Veloso noted that the committee was about to wrap up the hearings on probable cause.

It was also Veloso who suggested to Guballa to create a team that would focus on questions regarding the Chief Justice’s earnings.

“How much income, magkano binayad na tax, simple lang (how much tax was paid, it’s that simple),” the former Court of Appeals (CA) Justice said.

Guball told congressmen during the hearing that Sereno earns over P230,000 monthly.

If and when the House panel deems that there is probable cause, it will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which would then convene into an impeachment court for the purpose of trying Sereno.

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