House panel orders BIR to start Sereno tax probe

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Philstar file photo of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Justice has directed the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to begin an investigation on possible tax liabilities of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno amid her alleged failure to file her statement of assets liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 17 years when she was still a law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).

Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the committee, tasked BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa to produce a report on or before February 19.

Among the allegations in the impeachment complaint against Sereno was her failure to declare in her SALN from 2010 to 2016 the P30 million she earned as one of the private counsels of government in the arbitration case involving the expropriation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

The House panel is on its 14th hearing on the impeachment case, this time, to determine if there was probable cause to impeach her.

Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, the complainant in the impeachment case, said Sereno, who was with the UP College of Law from 1986 to 2006, only filed SALN in 1998, 2002, and 2006.

The BIR submitted to the committee certified copies of Sereno’s income tax return from 2004-2009.

Guballa said Sereno registered as a professional earning her income as a lawyer from a law office.

As to inquiries about her payment of taxes from her earnings on the Piatco case, Guballa said the BIR has no formal investigation yet.

“We are still collating information. We can answer those questions when we have conducted a formal investigation,” he said.

“We will try our best in two weeks. . . . I will try my best to come up with a proposed deficiency or whatever we can made regarding the income the Chief Justice had made,” Guballa added.