By Rey Panaligan
For “procedural defects and substantive deficiencies,” the Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the government’s petition that challenged the acquittal of Juan Miguel M. Arroyo of alleged tax evasion for years 2004 to 2009 and failure to file and pay income taxes for 2005, 2008, and 2009.
In a summary of the resolution, the SC’s public information office (PIO) said junked by the High Court was the petition filed for the government by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
With the dismissal of the petition, the SC affirmed the decision handed down in early this year by the Court of Tax Appeals’ (CTA) first division which dismissed all the charges against Arroyo for failure of the government to prove his guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The CTA also dismissed the civil aspect in Arroyo’s cases with a ruling that the acts or omissions which the civil liability might arise did not transpire.
On the basis of the CTA decision, the OSG elevated the issue before the SC.
The PIO summary stated that the SC held that “the CTA in Division did not act capriciously or whimsically in absolving [respondent Arroyo] of the charges.”
The summary also stated: “The CTA in Division assiduously sifted the evidence and analyzed the records; it explained the merits of the charges upon reviewing the elements of the offenses charged and determining whether or not the evidence adduced by the Prosecution established such elements.
“Also, the CTA in Division, noting that the [Bureau of Internal Revenue] did not discover the sources of Arroyo’s vaunted income, fully disclosed the various reasons why the State’s theory of the charges could not prosper, and how the chosen audit procedure known as the net worth method did not suffice to prove his criminal liability under the informations.
“In criminal cases, the quantum of evidence required is proof beyond reasonable doubt; hence, the Prosecution’s inability to identify the likely sources of the unreported or undeclared income of the taxpayer was a sure index of its failure to discharge the quantum.”
At the same time, the summary stated that the SC pointed out that the government, through the OSG, “prematurely filed the petition for certiorari because it did not first file a motion for reconsideration of the adverse ruling on the criminal aspect.
The omission, the summary stated, “was a gross violation of Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, which authorizes the petition for certiorari to be filed only when there is no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.”
“Procedural rules should be treated with utmost respect and due regard mainly because they have been crafted and designed to ensure the prompt adjudication of cases to remedy the worsening problem of delay in the resolution of rival claims and in the administration of justice,” it added.
In the first criminal case filed in 2011, Arroyo was accused of failing to file his correct income tax return for 2004 resulting in the basic deficiency income tax of P21.7 million for that year.
In the second case, he was charged in connection with his alleged deficiency income tax of P3.7 million for the year 2006, while in the third case he was accused of failing to file the correct income tax that resulted in deficiency income tax of P2.1 million in 2007, exclusive of surcharge and interests.
The CTA issued an arrest order against him but he voluntarily surrendered and posted bail. After the trial, the CTA handed down its decision on March 21, 2018 acquitting Arroyo of all the criminal charges and absolving him of civil liability.
This prompted the OSG to file a petition with the SC. Dismissing the petition, the SC ruled: “Wherefore, the court dismisses the petition for certiorari, without pronouncement on costs of suit.”