Minutes after scoring a spectacular win against American-Mexican slugger, Brandon Rios last Nov. 23, in Macau Cotai Arena, Manny Pacquiao faced the media and expressed thanks for the people praying for his successful comeback in the ring and offered his victory to the people in Tacloban who were recently ravaged by typhoon Yolanda. The boxer turned two-term congressman from the lone congressional district of Sarangani province also promised that he would drop by the devastated region to help out people still reeling from the trauma of the super typhoon that leveled many villages in the Visayas.
But hardly this euphoria of a victorious campaign in the ring had waned that he derided the government for trying to collect an estimated P2.2 billion tax liability by freezing his bank accounts with cash deposits amounting to P1.2 million.
Not only Pacquiao, whose estimated earnings including commercial endorsements a hefty fortune of $300 Million would grovel at the crumbs the government had sequestered to answer for his unpaid accounts, but that he would change the topic entirely by pointing out that his fortune was hard-fought, with blood and not plundered from the treasury and for which the government cannot lay a claim of. He added a malicious spin in the discourse by accusing the government of “political harassment” in an attempt to diminish his hard-earned fortune.
Mother Dionisia and wife Jinkee joined in the melee. The mainstream media adored this family so much that the airwaves were full of their sound-bites picturing the government as heartless and merciless.
No one is accusing Pacquiao of thievery. He was being asked simply to pay the taxes due on his fortune which was honestly earned. Assessment of tax against a person is not an accusation that the taxpayer is a thief. If he has paid his taxes to U.S. internal revenue service and by virtue thereof his income was already tax exempt, then all he has to do is present the documents to the BIR and not to the media. He said though that his documents were already submitted to the BIR, but he expressed surprise why his accounts were still put on hold.
The money frozen was a bread crumb, but the way the family bellyaches against this government action gives you an eerie feeling that the entire family fortune had been callously taken away from them by the government!
Besides, his multi-million income derived from various commercial endorsement is separate from his wealth earned from prizefighting. The government has a legitimate reason to examine all his income and assess tax thereon, and in the absence of supporting papers to prove his payments for the pot money he made in every boxing match and overseas commercial endorsements, the BIR was justified in making a tax levy on his bank accounts.
Pacquiao was tipsy about his stardom that he would not attend to his tax problem posthaste but rather let it dragged on for three years thereby spiking the amount due to penalties and interest on the principal. The Court of Tax Appeals case was from his 2008-2009 tax income.
If only he goes back to being a humble citizen he once was, he would realize that penalties and interest can be condoned and waived by the government if the taxpayer shows genuine effort to pay his taxes and deal with the problem rather than snub the collection efforts of the government as nothing but a vicious political harassment that is wanting in legal basis.
That there are thieves in the country who would not pay their fair share to the government is not an argument for the honest toilers do the same. His logic was flawed as his English was — he may invite laughter from the public the way he talks and an admiration the way he fights in the ring, but at the end of the day, he has a tax obligation to settle which will simply not disappear by browbeating the government.
Lucio Tan, a taxpayer sued by the government for non-payment of tax has an uncanny similarity to our champ. He started his millions by collecting ‘empty bottles’ (magbobote) on the streets, according to Imelda’s vivid description of the Chinaman, to become the pilot of an economic empire in the country. Despite being awash with money, he won’t settle his liability with the government.
Pacquiao spent some years retailing sticks of cigarettes of Lucio Tan on the streets of General Santos where he grew up, then he doubled up as a construction peon or ‘panadero’ to become a successful politician and a boxer earning dollars by the millions.
Both Tan and Pacquiao were haunted by tax problems after their colossal rise to fortune and fame. Tan, it is said, fought the case in court not because he was immaculately clean from tax assessment of the government, but because he saw the court case as a way to cut an inchoate loss. The government tax figures have so many zeroes in them, but if he could give half of the zeroes to the court barons, he would still be much ahead in the game. His tax case was so controversial that after the Supreme Court allowed Tan to walk free from all those zeroes, the court was pilloried by the press forcing the spokesman of the high tribunal to announce that the court has not been bribed by Tan to throw the case out the window.
Pacquiao, was not about to contest his tax liability in the court, but before the adoring media and their corrupt practitioners, – hoping perhaps that with his celebrity status, he could browbeat and terrify the BIR and let him have his way in this high profile beef with the government — after all he had pummeled his previous adversaries with superlative ferocity in the ring. He could do the same in the political ring, so he hopes.
But BIR however, could do a Marquez right hook and floor him down for a couple of minutes on the canvass to restore him back to sanity.
Despite his immersion to Christian values, our champ appears to be a total stranger to the third beatitude:
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”