Defrauded of P566-M, pork barrel scam victim Philforest too broke to pay tax liabilities

Published May 7, 2021, 9:59 PM

by Ben Rosario

Defrauded of over P566 million that led to its abolition in 2013, the Philippine Forest Corporation has become so broke that it could not even pay the Bureau of Internal Revenue of its tax liability which is a requisite in closing its book of accounts.

In a Management Letter on the Philforest audit conducted last year, the Commission on Audit said Philforest still cannot close its books of accounts as required under COA Circular No. 92-0375 “despite the lapse of seven years from” the approval of its abolition in 2013.

In the letter sent recently to Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Supervising Auditor Ma. Linda C. Decena cited the agency’s failure to pay P3.395 million in tax liabilities to the Bureau of Internal Revenue as among the causes of delay in the implementation of the winding of operations of state-run firm.

The BIR could not act on the cancellation of the certificate of registration and Taxpayer Identification Number of the former agro-forestry arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources unless it settles its tax obligations.

The Trustee-in-Liquidation (TIL) /TIL Team (TiLT) told the audit team that the process of liquidation is being held back by the Philforest’s “outstanding payable/pehnalty amounting to P3.395 milliion which needs to be settled first.” “However, the PFC has no funds to settle the liabilities,” Decena reported.

“We recommended the TIL/TILT to include in the POL (Plan of Liquidation) their concern on lack of cash to settle the liabilities particularly the Due to BIR and their intentioin to request budget from the DBM (Department of Budget Management),” said Decena.

According to Decena the liquidation of Philforest’s affairs has remained pending since the agency was abolished in 2013 by then President Benigno Aquino III.

“The liquidation of affairs of PFC, including the closing of its books of accounts as required under COA Circular NO. 92-0375 dated March 9, 1992 was not carried out despite the lapse of seven years from the approval of the abolition on November 26 2013, contrary to Section 122 of the Corporation Code of the Philippines,” COA’s management letter explained.

Included among the expected receivables is the P566.127,452.58 unsettled audit disallowances that included huge amounts lost by Philforest due to the so-called P10 billion pork barrel scam that resulted in the filing of plunder charges against implicated lawmakers and the dummy non-government organizations of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Also linked to the fraud were the former key officials of Philforest.

Philforest, together with the National Agri-Business Corporation and ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation, was ordered abolished by Aquino as a result of the pork barrel anomalies.