By Elizabeth Marcelo
MANILA, Philippines — The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has acquitted Parañaque City treasurer Anthony Pulmano of a criminal case which stemmed from his alleged unlawful grant of almost P9 million worth of tax amnesty to a real estate company in 2013.
In its 14-decision dated November 27, the court’s Fourth Division said the city government’s grant of tax amnesty to private corporation Chevy Chase Condominium Owners Association Inc. “cannot be ascribed to Pulmano” as there was an ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod or city council to back the grant.
In its case information sheet filed in December 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman charged Pulmano of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The ombudsman said Pulmano “acted with evident bad faith, manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence” when he allowed Chevy Chase to avail of the city government’s tax amnesty program “despite knowing fully well” that the company failed to submit the requirements for the grant provided under City Ordinance No.13-08 Series of 2013.
The ombudsman said Chevy also paid its balance in real property tax (RPT) obligation beyond the period provided under the said Ordinance, thus, it should have been automatically disqualified to avail of the tax benefits.
Based on the information of the case, Chevy originally has P12.892 million RPT liability but because of Pulmano’s act of allowing the company to avail of the tax amnesty, its liability was reduced to P4.048 million or a difference of P8.844 million.
In its ruling, the Fourth Division noted that at the course of the trial, both the prosecution and the defense stipulated that Chevy Chase was “qualified” to avail of the tax benefits under City Ordinance No. 13-08.
“Thus entitlement of Chevy Chase to the tax amnesty program cannot be ascribed to Pulmano,” the decision read.
The Fourth Division further said Pulmano must not be held criminally liable over Chevy Chase’s payment of its remaining P1.965 million RPT liability beyond the deadline of the tax amnesty program.
Based on the court’s records, it was only on Nov. 25, 2013 when Chevy Chase was able to deposit to the city government’s Land Bank account the balance of P1.965 million out of its P12.892-million total RPT liability.
This was after the Banco De Oro check that Chevy Chase issued on November 15, the last day of the effectivity of the tax amnesty program, was dishonored “due to insufficiency of funds”.
“In fact, again based on the stipulated facts, upon learning that the check had been dishonored, he immediately notified Chevy Chase of the same and informed it that settlement of the check was not covered by the tax amnesty period,” the court said.
“In the face of these undisputed incidents, the Court cannot hold Pulmano criminally liable for violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019,” it added.
The decision was penned by division chairman Associate Justice Alex Quiroz with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Bayani Jacinto.