MANILA, Philippines - Coddlers of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda will face charges, Malacañang warned yesterday.
“Certainly, (possible coddlers) will have a liability under the law. I’m not quite clear if it would be aiding and abetting a fugitive or the offense under the special penal law of obstruction of justice,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told radio station dzRB.
The Ligots are being hunted down by the police after the couple reportedly went missing following the issuance of an arrest order by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) for tax evasion.
Valte said the Palace was not disappointed that the couple could not be found since they were free to travel before the warrant was issued for their arrest.
This time, she said the Department of Justice can issue a hold-departure order for the fugitive couple.
“That is the normal procedure to be done,” she said.
Valte said they would look into the case of the Ligots and determine why they managed to evade arrest.
“From what I understand, there was a case filed against them, but there was no warrant of arrest prior to that. Even from the Senate, there were no restrictions on their movement and on their travel. But we will have to see,” she said.
Valte called on the Ligots to come out and face the charges against them in court.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that based on records from the Bureau of Immigration, the couple is still in the country.
CIDG joins manhunt
Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) have joined the hunt for the couple.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the police force is mandated to arrest individuals wanted by the law.
“Part of the PNP mandate is to go after persons with warrants of arrest… CIDG has trackers teams for the purpose,” said Cruz of the manhunt against the Ligots.
The Department of Justice had ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to lead the manhunt and effect the warrant of arrest issued by the court against them.
De Lima said the Ligots are now considered fugitives from justice since they have not posted bail.
They are facing charges for violation of Articles 254 and 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code for attempting to evade payment of tax from 2002 to 2004.
In a resolution issued by the CTA, the Ligots were accused of failing to report a total income of P165.4 million and as a result incurred a total tax deficiency of P153.2 million, exclusive of interest and penalty charges.
The resolution was promulgated on Sept. 28 but was made public only last Friday.
The court decision covers only the taxable year 2003. Four other tax evasion charges filed against the Ligot couple remained pending at the CTA.
Last March, the Bureau of Internal Revenue filed tax evasion raps against the couple for failing to declare their income of about P459.6 million from 2002 to 2004. The Ligots allegedly used the money to acquire several properties here and abroad.
The BIR said the couple also owed the government 428 million from 2003 to 2004.
Of the P428 million, the retired general has a tax deficiency of P290.2 million while his wife owes the government P137 million.
‘Surface to ferret out truth’
The military yesterday said it would be best if the Ligot couple surface to help ferret out the truth about their case.
“We cannot tell them what to do since they are not under our jurisdiction but this (surfacing) would help shed light on the issue,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in a telephone phone interview.
“It (surfacing of the Ligots) would be beneficial since it could ferret out the truth,” he added.
Burgos also said that measures have been undertaken to stop corruption in the military.
“(AFP chief) Gen. (Eduardo) Oban (Jr.) is serious about combating corruption. We are implementing reforms in our procurement and financial systems,” he said.
“We have been working with agencies like the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to ensure that the funds would be handled properly,” the AFP spokesman said.
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