DOJ to probe Rappler on P133-M tax evasion

Published April 17, 2018, 4:39 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Jeffrey Damicog

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to start its preliminary investigation over the P133-million tax evasion complaint filed against online news site Rappler.

FILE PHOTO: Journalists work at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Journalists work at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines January 15, 2018. (REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao/File Photo)

The DOJ will conduct its first hearings over the complaint this April 24 and May 11.

Assistant State Prosecutor Zenamar Machacon-Caparros has already issued subpoenas to Rappler president Maria Ressa and treasurer James Bitanga to appear on the scheduled hearing on April 24 and to submit their counter-affidavits.

“You are hereby warned that failure on your part to comply with this subpoena shall be considered as a waiver to present your defense and the case shall be considered submitted for resolution based on the evidence on record,” the DOJ subpoena warned.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) filed last March 8 the complaint which accused Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) and its executives–Ressa and Bitanga– of violating the Sections 254 and 255 in relation to Sections 253(d) and 256 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for their attempt to evade or defeat tax and for deliberate failure to supply correct and accurate information in its annual income tax return (ITR) and value added tax returns (VAT) in 2015.

Apart from them, the BIR also filed a complaint against certified public accountant Noel Baladiang for violating Section 257(A)(2) of the Tax Code for signing and certifying the financial statements of RHC despite the clear omission and misstatement of his client’s actual taxable income.

The BIR learned RHC has, on various dates, purchased shares from Rappler Inc. amounting to P19,245,875 and, subsequently, sold Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) on various dates to two foreign entities for P181,658,758.67.

The BIR noted that RHC also used the same common shares it purchased from Rappler Inc. as underlying asset/share of the PDRs.

Because of these transactions, the BIR pointed out RHC is a dealer in securities and is subject to income tax (IT) and VAT.

However, the BIR discovered that the annual ITR and VAT returns filed by RHC for taxable year 2015 showed that no IT and VAT have been paid for the transactions.

The BIR said this means RHC has an aggregate tax liability amounting to P133,841,305.75 which includes P91,320,481.08 IT and P42,520,824.67 VAT.