FORMER FIRST LADY Imelda R. Marcos and family. The Sandiganbayan has junked another wealth case against them and their cronies.

By ALFRED GABOT. Editor in Chief

MANILA – “They have not paid.”

Thus said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Caesar Dulay as they confirmed that the Philippine government is keen on collecting some P23 billion in unpaid estate tax plus penalties which has ballooned to P203 billion by the heirs of the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

This as the Senate, taking cue from President Rodrigo Duterte in reminding the BIR to ensure that all estate taxes are being properly collected, may open soon an investigation through its Committees on Finance, Ways and Means, and Blue Ribbon into the unpaid estate taxes and the failure of the BIR to collect said taxes, said Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

Pimentel said in a television interview that senators led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III favour the holding of the Senate public hearing, saying the Senate has still time before or after the election to conduct he hearings.

Pimentel called for the investigation of the alleged unpaid estate tax of the Marcos family through Senate Resolution No. 998 filed last March 28, which sought to direct the proper Senate committee to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation.

This as Sen. Imee Marcos questioned the timing in bringing up the issue on the unpaid estate taxes by former First Lady Imelda Marcos and former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., co-administrators of the Marcos estate, saying those bringing up the P203-billion liability were part of efforts and “dirty tactics” to discredit them ahead of the May elections.

Senator Marcos, whose brother Ferdinand Jr. is running for president and is leading the race based on surveys, said the issue had not been discussed for many years.

“Ang akin lang, ang dami-daming taon, bakit bigla ngayon lumabas? Parang talagang paninira naman yata ito ng bulok na politika,” the lady senator said in a television interview.

In 1997, the Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the Court of Appeals on the Marcos family’s estate tax liability as “final and executory”.

The camp of  Marcos has insisted that the Marcos family’s estate tax remains unsettled since the properties linked to the case are still under litigation.

Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar acknowledged mounting calls for the government to collect the unpaid estate tax of the Marcos family.

“The issue of the Marcos family’s estate tax liabilities has spanned over several administrations,” Andanar said, adding President Duterte already called out the BIR for failing to collect the unpaid estate taxes in a prerecorded public address on March 29.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his last Talk to the People Address has already called the attention of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to address this issue,” Andanar added.

During a Palace press briefing on March 30, Andanar said Duterte’s statement was a reminder for the BIR, noting that the agency should go after all individuals not paying their taxes.

“Hindi lang sa kung sinong politiko o personalidad. Dapat sa lahat ng personalidad na hindi nagbabayad ay dapat habulin ng BIR sapagkat kailangan ng karagdagang pondo ng ating national government (Not just certain politicians or personality. The BIR should go after any person who is not paying their taxes because the national government needs the additional fund),” Andanar said.

Last December, the BIR sent a demand letter to the Marcoses to pay their estate tax which grew to P203 billion after the party of presidential candidate Manila Mayor Francisco Isko Moreno Domagoso called for its urgent settlement, pointing out the money to be collected can boost the coffers of the government, the debt of which has soared to P12 trillion.

Secretary Dominguez and BIR chief Dulay have confirmed the “BIR is collecting and demanded payment from the Marcos Estate Administrators.”

Dominguez said the government is intent on collecting the unpaid estate taxes from the Marcoses.

“We have been in discussion, intense discussion with the Bureau of Internal Revenue on this issue and they are studying this issue very carefully,” Dominguez said.

The finance chief said there have been several amounts on how much the estate tax due to the government from the family of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and  “that is for the BIR to determine.”

Dominguez said the amount originally was about P9 billion but because of penalties and interest after several court cases, there have been several amounts floated, such as P99 billion and P203 billion.

 “So which amount is going to be settled is in discussions now with BIR,” he said, adding that from his understanding from the BIR, “is that they are trying to cut through all these issues in order to do the job.”

According to the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, the Supreme Court (SC) in July 2003 ruled that over P25 billion worth of Marcos assets were considered ill-gotten.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), created in 1986 to recover the Marcoses’ and their cronies’ ill-gotten wealth, has so far recovered P171 billion.