Pacquiao’s tax case is about money, not feelings


A Facebook post from a former journalist and, recently, a shill for a mining company on Manny Pacquiao’s tax troubles:

Welcome to the apathy of the Philippine government, they don’t care how much joy Manny gave to the people as long as govertment [sic] has something to steal.

And that seems to be the recent general sentiment over the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s garnishment of P1.1 million in two of Pacquiao’s bank accounts.

How dare a government agency, people–including people in government–are saying, actually do its job? What, they say, is a few million (the tax case involves P2.2 billion) against the hope and joy that Pacquiao’s victory brought the Filipino people by winning a boxing match so soon after the tragedy that hit the central Philippines?

The simple answer, really, is that the BIR didn’t. It did dare to run after a boxing champion, congressman, and patriarch of a fledgling political dynast. But that was not after the Pacquiao-Rios fight.

Nobody stood by the window of the BIR National Office Building, smoking a cigar in the dark, and said “Let us fuck over the Filipino people even more by taxing their national hero. If anything like that happened at all, it happened in 2011, when the case was first filed.

It was not even much of a case. The BIR merely wanted Pacquiao to show documents to prove that he had paid taxes in the US for income on fights in the US.

He didn’t respond. Or if he did, he did not respond satisfactorily, so the BIR wrote banks where Pacquiao had accounts to hold P1.1 million in lieu of Pacquiao paying taxes that he had failed to show he had already paid in the US. That was earlier this year:

First, the warrant of distraint was issued early this year yet, meaning many months before deadly Yolanda. So it is not correct to say that the government purposely made it difficult for Manny to help the typhoon victims. The BIR, and I say this with a sigh, has vast powers, including forcing lawyers to display a schedule of fees in their office, but clairvoyance is not one of them.

Second, it was not the BIR that announced that Manny’s bank accounts have been garnished. In fact, that is why only a very few people knew about the distraint even if it had been in place for almost a year; the BIR did not talk about it.

Joy doesn’t enter into it at all and if we were to make exceptions to tax laws for people who bring joy and happiness to other people, then let’s go ahead and do that.

Maybe there should be a Pinoy Pride index with corresponding points for tax rebates for actors, boxing champions, and anyone who gives the Filipino people joy for a given value of joy. We don’t have that yet, though, so it’s down to boring taxes for money earned.

Another journalist, one who is not a shill for a mining company, points out:

We always criticize the government for backing down when confronted with somebody in power. But now that the BIR is doing its job running after Pacquiao — and many other doctors, lawyers, actors and actresses — everyone is up in arms to protect their “national treasure.”

This, against the common, almost comforting, cry of selective justice raised whenever someone people like is in the government’s cross hairs. People have been quick to point to how Pacquiao, congressman for Sarangani Province, is a member of the United Nationalist Alliance, the likely opposition party to the administration Liberal Party.

One UNA senator even made a quip that what is happening to Pacquiao is “Political HENARESment”, a play on tax bureau chief Kim Jacinto Henares’ name and an attempt at wit that was less witty and more an indication of the quality of wit that we have roaming the Senate floor.

Listen. A government agency making the unpopular decision to actually run after a popular boxing champion (and lawmaker) is precisely the opposite of justice being selective.

And even assuming Senator JV Ejercito has a point and Pacquiao is subject to political harassment, the obvious follow-up question is: To what end? Pacquiao, despite his seat at the House of Representatives, is not a politician.

He has done little as a member of Congress except for some ham-handed attempts at debate on the Reproductive Health Law and lending his face to a CNN documentary on human trafficking. He has not taken any stands that are truly critical of the government and has spent most of his time training for ring fights.

The government has nothing to gain by going against Pacquiao regardless of political affiliation. Pacquiao has previously been connected to former senator Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party and, indeed, even the Liberal Party. It would be far better and easier to charm him into switching parties in the run-up to 2016 than to tax him and lose any hope of getting an endorsement in the elections.

The only thing that the government actually has to gain–and this isn’t even a sure thing–is the taxes that Pacquiao may or may not have already paid in the US.

The BIR doesn’t care “how much joy Manny gave to the people” and that is exactly right.

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