Holy Week Blues

One thing I don’t like about writing a weekly column is not having Holy Week and Christmas holidays off. When I was in print media, the only columnists who got breaks were those published on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. I don’t know what the rules are for electronic media so I will be staring at this LED screen while the rest of you are at a beach admiring STC (St. Theresa’s College) students in bikinis.

Boxing Day is not a holiday for Manny Pacquiao, who some politicians argue should be given a tax holiday for being the most popular Filipino in the world. Boxing Day is a British term for the day after Christmas when people have to figure out what to do with all the empty boxes that once contained their Christmas gifts. Boxing Day is hell for garbage collectors and heaven for hoarders.

I don’t understand why at least half a dozen senators and congressmen attacked BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) commissioner Kim Henares for standing up for a district revenue collector who was concerned about the sudden and steep decline in the income tax payments of Manny Pacquio, the man who now overshadows Jose Rizal as the national icon. But I can understand why the position of those politicians is a good argument for adding an extra year to the school curriculum.

Today, Pacquio’s boxing accomplishments are deemed even more earthshaking than proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. That minor achievement, as far as kayumanggi politicians are concerned, came from Reinabelle Reyes, a 28 year old kayumanggi Filipina who studied physics at the Ateneo, graduated summa cum laude, before going on to earn a doctorate in Astrophysics in Princeton University and joining a team of scientists that proved Einstein right. I guess eight boxing championship belts in hand are more valuable than a Nobel laurel in the bush.

Pacquiao is not being dunned for taxes. The BIR only wants to see documents that will explain why his tax payments dropped from P100M in one year to P7M the following year. The BIR is not saying that Pacquiao is evading taxes. They just want to know why from paying enough taxes to build dozens of schoolhouses he is reduced to paying an amount that won’t even cover Rep. Toby Tiangco’s monthly bill for hair gel.

By the way Rep. Tiangco filed a House Resolution condemning the BIR in the strongest terms for not observing due process. He said, “The service of the subpoena duces tecum as well as the Letter of Authority by the BIR failed to comply with its own Revenue Memorandum Order prescribing the procedure for a valid service of Subpoena.”

The Constitution does not require that Members of Congress be well-informed or intelligent so Rep. Hair Gel can be excused for not knowing or for failing to understand that a BIR Letter of Authority is routine. A Letter of Authority is an official document that empowers a revenue officer to examine the books of account of taxpayers in order to determine their tax liabilities. Big businessmen and other large taxpayers get it all the time. It’s part of the BIR’s job. If at all, the BIR would be remiss in its duties if it did not regularly issue such letters to large taxpayers that suddenly become small taxpayers.

Manny Pacquiao can also be forgiven for believing that his human rights were violated by the BIR. His head gets battered at least once a year.

But Pacquiao’s lawyer should know better. A lawyer is supposed to be well- informed about laws and regulations. There is no excuse for Pacquiao’s lawyer, former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero, to say, “It is the duty of the BIR to gather evidence against a taxpayer. It is not the duty of the taxpayer to submit something that might be used against him.” First of all, the law grants the BIR the power to issue Letters of Authority. Secondly, a lawyer should never imply that the BIR might be on to something that can incriminate his client.

I bet the BIR will be blamed if Pacquiao loses his next fight. But I doubt he will lose because his promoter chooses fights carefully, he will not risk the big Pacquiao-Merryweather payday. That’s why I gave up on boxing eons ago. It’s like professional wrestling except that in boxing there is always the possibility of an unscripted punch. But sitting through 12 rounds waiting and hoping for that unscripted punch is such a waste of time, time that can be better spent poring over the mysterious tax records of boxers and the hidden dollar accounts of the Chief Justice.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.