Pacquiao, stunned by assets freeze, hits back at government: 'Thieves are treated better'
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(UPDATE4 - 6:55 P.M.) GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Manny Pacquiao may have won a remarkable comeback bid against Brandon Rios in Macau on Sunday, in the process winning universal praise for lifting the morale of his calamity-hit countrymen, but the boxing icon said Tuesday he was virtually knocked out by tax authorities who froze his bank accounts over a P2.2-billion case.
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares insisted, however, they did not surprise Pacquiao, and had not acted arbitrarily. She said the BIR gave him two years to question the tax assessment and submit documents. She also said only P1.1 million were garnished, counting on the responses of two banks.
Pacquiao had rushed home on Monday because, he said, he wanted to help in relief operations in typhoon-Yolanda devastated areas in the Visayas. The President, Vice President, and two houses of Congress were also quick to commend Pacquiao for his victory, widely seen as a "tonic" to still-grieving typhoon victims who watched his fight from public-viewing sites.
A day after his return, however, Pacquiao was stunned to learn his accounts had been frozen, and on Tuesday he asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to reconsider what he described as an arbitrary order.
Pacquiao said he could not even help in the relief efforts for Yolanda victims as a result of the freezing of his accounts. "Hindi ako makapag-withdraw ni isang singkong sentimo sa sarili kong pera, hindi ko magamit para makatulong." (I cannot withdraw even a single centavo of my own money. I cannot use it even to help.)
"Bago ma-garnish, di ako naka-receive kahit isang sulat o warning" (Before the garnishment, I did not receive a single letter or warning) from tax authorities, Pacquiao said in a hastily called news conference in General Santos City.
"I don't know why I am being singled out," the Saranggani representative (People's Champ Movement-UNA) said in a mix of English and Filipino. "The BIR claims I earned more than what I actually did, without any evidence to back it up."
Pressed to respond to a query on how he felt about being stripped of all his assets after allowing himself to be "beaten up" to uplift the Filipino spirit, Pacquiao said: "Nagpabugbog ako, kumita ako, kinuha ng gobyerno. Pero pag nagnakaw ka - wala pa akong nakitang nagnakaw ng marami, pero na-garnish lahat ng pera." (I got a beating, earned some, and government took it. But steal something... I have yet to see anybody who's stolen a lot and gotten the same garnishment.)
Pacquiao explained the BIR had been demanding he show proof he had paid taxes on previous earnings in the US, and he had submitted copies of such tax payments. However, he said, the BIR had kept insisting on getting “original” documents. “But America’s IRS does not give originals, only copies. Saan ako lulugar [Where do I place myself]?”
Smiling even while showing exasperation, Pacquiao said “dinadasal ko na lang sa Diyos ang lahat [I just lift up everything to God].”
He added: "Ang pera kong ginarnish ng BIR ay hindi po nakaw at hindi po PDAF o DAP. Ito po ay galing sa lahat ng suntok, bugbog, pawis at dugo na tiniis ko sa boxing." (The money garnished by the BIR was not stolen and did not come from PDAF or DAP. This came from all the hits, beatings, the blood and sweat I sacrificed via boxing.)
Since the BIR’s freeze order comes with a warrant of garnishment over Pacquiao’s properties and bank deposits, the boxing icon said he would be practically penniless and might need to borrow money to bankroll his relief drive for victims of super typhoon “Yolanda.”
“Pero walang problema, hindi hadlang ‘yan sa pagpunta ko sa Tacloban. The Lord will always provide, mangungutang uli [But there’s no problem. That’s not a stumbling block to my trip in Tacloban. The Lord will always provide, I will borrow money again].”
Pacquaio said his team would start repacking goods for the typhoon victims Tuesday night and he would arrive in Tacloban either November 28 or 29.
Asked how many of his employees and other dependents would be affected by the freeze order, the boxing icon said he had about 1,000 workers who were receiving salaries from him every 15 days.
He said he also has many scholars and he pays millions of pesos for their tuition and allowance.
“So marami din…Malaking epekto ‘yan. Kaya ako nakikiusap sa BIR na alisin nila ang garnishment dahil hindi naman ako tatakbo o magtatago man [So many will be affected. That’s why I’m pleading for the BIR to remove the warrant of garnishment because I will not run or hide from them].”
Malacanang officials said Pacquiao should perhaps apologize and simply comply with BIR rules.
Presidential Communications Operations Office head Secretary Herminio Coloma said Pacquiao could apologize for failing to pay his taxes and make a settlement offer.
"We are a government of laws, not of men," Coloma said in an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Tuesday.
Henares: We gave him two years to refute tax assessment
BIR chief Kim Henares rejected claims that the agency had acted arbitrarily in Pacquiao’s case. “Since 2010, we’ve been asking him to explain. He should show all his earnings, and what he paid in America.” She said all they wanted from Pacquiao was the document from the US’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) indicating he had paid taxes on his earnings in America, “and not a letter from Top Rank,” which together with HBO had written BIR to attest that taxes had indeed been paid on Pacquiao’s earnings from his previous bouts’ winnings, pay-per-view revenue, among others.
“He had time to protest---so the assessment became final…ibig sabihin tapos na ang usapin. So dapat bayaran nya ang BIR, pero di pa niya ginagawa,” Henares said in a phone interview with DZMM.
“Ang sumulat sa amin ay ang Top Rank; sinabi ng Top Rank na sila ay nagbayad sa America. Puede naman maski sino mag-drawing, magsabi, oy, nagbayad ako ng buwis para sa isang tao,” Henares said. In his earlier press conference, Pacquiao said that if he had evaded paying taxes in America, “do you think I can still go back there and set foot on US soil? Don’t you think they will jail me?”
Henares said the BIR order of garnishment was something that should not come as a surprise. She said it was Pacquiao who filed a case with the Court of Tax Appeals in October, precisely to stop the BIR from proceeding with the garnishment.
She said the BIR had patiently waited for Pacquiao the past two years, and rejected accusations it was a party pooper. “Every time na may laban siya, humihinto kami. Kasi nga ayaw naming masisi kapag natalo siya [Every time he had a fight, we would stop the proceedings, because we didn’t want to be blamed for putting him in a bad mood and making him lose].”
Statement from Congress office: BIR ignored Top Rank, HBO
In a statement issued by his congressional office, meanwhile, the representative of the long district of Sarangani cried foul over the decision and lamented its timing: he had just rushed home from Macau because he intends to help those affected by super typhoon “Yolanda” and the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the Visayas region.
“Matagal ko nang gustong tumulong sa mga nasalanta ng bagyo at lindol, pero ako po ay hinabla ng BIR ng P2.2 billion peso tax case na walang kabase-base at ang aking mga pera sa bangko ay gi-narnish ng BIR [I’ve long wanted to help those affected by the typhoon and the earthquake, but the BIR has sued me for a baseless P2.2-billion tax case and garnished my bank assets],” Pacquiao said in a statement.
He also questioned the motive of the BIR for filing the case against him even if his camp has already provided the bureau with all the tax requirements and information it needed. “The BIR claims I earned more than what I actually did, without any evidence to back it up. They ignored information given by Top Rank and HBO and insisted I have earned more. My lawyers have given them all the info that they want and they still refuse to believe. I really don't know why I am being singled out,” he said.
Pacquiao said that he instructed his lawyers to do all legal means to lift the decision so that he could extend assistance to the victims of the calamities and to support the financial needs of his family.
At present, his office said Pacquiao is busy preparing to push through with the relief operations for the calamity victims in Visayas. He intends to visit Tacloban later this week.