DOJ chief confirms former law firm handled Marcos tax case

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ABS-CBN News/DOSSIER

MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday that his former law firm handled a tax case for the Marcoses but could not say whether they had received tax notices from the Bureau of Internal Revenue ( BIR) for property taxes due.

“Yeah, I remember at one point our law firm represented the Marcoses in a tax case in the early 1990s,” he told reporters in response to questions.

His former law firm, De Borja, Medialdea, Ata, Bello, Guevarra and Serapio Law Office, was mentioned in the 1997 Supreme Court decision which declared final the inheritance tax of 23 billion pesos to the time of the Marcos.

“[C]Copies of notices were also served on Mrs. Imelda Marcos, the applicant and their lawyer ‘De Borja, Medialdea, Ata, Bello, Guevarra and Serapio Law Office’, on April 7, 1993 and June 10, 1993”, the June 5, 1997 SC decision in Marcos v. Court of Appeals declared.

“Despite all these notices, the petitioner never lifted a finger to protest against the assessments (on which the levy and sale of properties was based), nor appealed to the Court of Tax Appeal,” he said. -he adds.

The 23 billion peso inheritance tax owed has now jumped to 203 billion pesos due to penalties, surcharges and interest.

Guevarra could not confirm whether his former law firm had received the tax notice from the BIR, citing attorney-client privilege, which prohibits lawyers from revealing confidential information about their clients.

“But even if I wanted to check, the case files are no longer in our old law firm,” he said.

“We had to hand over the files to Liza. The supervising partner, Atty. Loreto Ata, passed away several years ago,” he explained.

Guevarra said presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.’s wife, Liza Araneta-Marcos, referred the case to her former law firm while she was still working for them.

“It was through Liza Araneta, who worked with us as an associate after returning from New York, that the matter was referred to us. We only handled the matter for a certain period of time. When Liza Araneta left our firm, we also stopped representing the Marcos,” the DOJ chief said.

Guevarra clarified that he wasn’t really restricted by attorney-client privilege from commenting on the matter, but said, “since we have no personal knowledge of what happened to the case after the have handed over to the customer, we prefer not to comment. ”

Marcos, in the 1997 Supreme Court case, sought to challenge the BIR’s assessment of the property taxes owed by their family resulting from the death of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. in Hawaii in 1989, citing the awaiting court cases questioning the deceased’s ownership or dictator’s interests in certain properties – the same argument his spokesman is also now raising.

But the high court dismissed Marcos’ arguments, calling it “a last ditch effort to attack the inheritance tax assessment which had already become final and without appeal”.

“The petitioner, however, fails to allege whether the properties levied by the BIR in the collection of property taxes from the estate of the deceased were among those implicated in the said pending cases in the Sandiganbayan. Indeed, the court does not know how these cases are relevant to the case at hand. The mere fact that the deceased had pending business dealings with ill-gotten wealth does not affect the enforcement of tax assessments on assets undoubtedly included in his or her estate,” the Supreme Court explained.

He also faulted the Marcos for not raising objections to the evaluation within 30 days of receipt.

In a recent interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, Marcos’ sister, Senator Imee Marcos, claimed that her family has yet to receive a copy of the BIR demand letter.

“Wala kasing copya na buo ‘yung nanay ko. Hinihingi nga ‘yung buong dokumento para upuan na once and for all kasi nakailang beses na rin kami na nakikisuyo sa kanlia na upuan na natin et sumahin ng total,” she said.

The BIR had sent a formal notice to the Marcos in December last year, as revealed by the camp of presidential rival, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.

BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez later confirmed that “BIR was collecting and demanding payment from the administrators of the Marcos Estate.”

“They didn’t pay,” the two said.

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