Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ligots surface, post bail for P153-million tax case

After days of being the subjects of a manhunt, former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda surfaced yesterday to post bail in connection with a P153-million tax evasion case filed against them.
The couple showed up at the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) to post a joint P150,000 bail for their temporary release for tax evasion or violation of Section 254 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

The Ligots reportedly went missing following the issuance of arrest warrants by the CTA’s second division last Sept. 29. The failure to serve the warrants prompted Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to track them down.

The couple refused to talk to the media, but their lawyer Emiliano Bantog denied reports that they had attempted to escape from authorities.

Bantog said his clients cut short their vacation and “voluntarily submitted” themselves to authorities. He said they were unaware of the issuance of the warrants of arrest.

But De Lima, unconvinced, has instructed the NBI to determine where the couple had stayed since the issuance of the arrest orders.

“I will wait for the report from NBI before determining any such liability for evading arrest. It would depend on such facts or circumstances as knowledge of existence of arrest warrant and intention (to) evade,” she stressed.

Also yesterday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) formally sought issuance of a hold departure order (HDO) against the Ligots.

“They’re entitled to provisional liberty pending the proceedings, that’s why you can never tell (if they will leave). That’s why we want to be on the side of caution. It’s better to secure HDO,” De Lima explained.

The Ligots were earlier reported missing after authorities failed to serve the warrants. Based on a Return of Warrant of Arrest received by the CTA last Oct. 21, the Southern Metro Manila Criminal Investigation and Detection team in Fort Bonifacio was unable to implement the warrant of arrest issued by the court.

It was learned that the Ligots were no longer residents of the address stated – a condominium unit at the Essensa East Forbes, Taguig City.

Court officers had also said they had no record of the Ligots’ lawyers, and had not received any pleading from the couple.
The Ligots are facing charges of non-payment of tax and five counts of non-filing of income tax returns (ITRs) for taxable years 2001 to 2004.

The complaint was based on the Ligots’ million-peso bank deposits and the former comptroller’s purchase of properties in Rizal province, a condominium unit in Makati City, and a sports utility vehicle.

His wife Erlinda allegedly made several bank deposits, including a $200,000 bank transaction.

“She also purchased several properties that included a Paseo Parkview Tower II condominium unit at Salcedo Village in Makati City, a $322,181 real property at No. 1240 Cabernet Circle, Anaheim, California, USA, and a $599,500 house and lot at 7102 Stanton Avenue, Buena Park, California,” the BIR said.

The Buena Park property was already forfeited by the US government, upon the request of the Philippines through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The property was listed under the name of Erlinda Ligot.

Last April, the US government turned over to the Philippines the $132,000 proceeds from the sale of such property.

Motion for intervention

Meanwhile, government lawyers asked the Sandiganbayan yesterday to junk a motion for intervention filed by a group of retired and active military officials who are claiming to be the real owners of Ligot’s property in Tanay, Rizal.

Deputy Special Prosecutor Cornelio Somido, acting Prosecution Bureau IX director Irenio Paldeng and Assistant Special Prosecutor Almira Abella-Orfanel said the pleading filed in September by spouses Shelley Veronica and Felipe Perez should be denied for lack of merit.

The couple, claiming to represent some 77 other owners of a portion of a 7.2-hectare land in the province which prosecutors are trying to recover through a forfeiture case as ill-gotten or unexplained wealth, is asking the anti-graft court to allow them to be party to the case.

Those listed as alleged owners include former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Victor Ibrado; former Northern Luzon Command chief now Bureau of Corrections head Gaudencio Pangilinan; and retired Army Colonel George Rabusa.

Government lawyers said the property is covered by transfer certificate of title no. M-113065 issued by the Registry of Deeds of the municipality of Morong, Rizal in the names of Ligot and his wife Erlinda on Nov. 28, 2002.

“The name of Veronica and Felipe (Perez), much less, their purported interest, in this parcel of land they now claim to have, do not appear from the four corners of Deed of Absolute Sale,” they said in their comment and opposition to the motion for intervention.

“Neither does TCT 113065 show it. In simpler terms, TCT 113065 vests ownership of the parcel of land it covered solely on the Ligots,” government lawyers stressed.

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