Palace takes up cudgels for MBC, cries harassment

Published by rudy Date posted on April 17, 2011


The Palace cried harassment and branded as “political obfuscation” the suggestion of oppositionist Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez for President Aquino and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to check the financial books of companies of big businessmen who are members of Aquino-backer Makati Business Club (MBC).

Suarez issued such remark in connection with the minority camp’s protest over the P73.85-million tax evasion raps filed by the BIR against Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo while the country’s biggest tax evaders who are allegedly part of the MBC are being kept off the hook by the administration.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda considered this particular approach by Suarez as “political harassment” when the Tribune merely asked whether the Aquino administration would be open to such challenge by the minority lawmaker.

Lacierda, in a text message, instead questioned why Suarez never raised that suggestion when the BIR through Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares started filing tax evasion complaints against various individuals last year.

“The long and short of Rep. Suarez’s tirade is political harassment. When Commissioner Henares

was filing her tax evasion cases on a bi-monthly basis, he never uttered a word of discomfort. Only when Rep. Arroyo was haled to the DoJ (Department of Justice) did he now begin to complain,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda went back to the simple argument raised by Aquino and the rest of Malacañang officials that the issue would be settled at once if Arroyo would be able to present before the BIR documents showing that he filed his income tax returns.

“The strategy he (Suarez) has taken is political obfuscation but the issue here is simple: Did Rep. Arroyo fail to file his income tax returns as alleged by the BIR? If a case was not filed against Rep. Arroyo, I seriously doubt if he would even bother crying havoc,” Lacierda said.

Arroyo and his wife, Angela, were slapped with tax evasion charges by the BIR last April 7 as well as Brazilian television host/model Daiana Menezes whom Suarez considered as a small fry compared to the groups of businessmen that are allegedly cheating the government.

Suarez’s demand for Aquino to look into the MBC’s books came ahead of his threat to divulge two “damaging” issues against the administration apparently in retaliation given the rough treatment being received by the members of the opposition despite their willingness to cooperate with his government.

Malacañang through Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma has earlier said they are prepared to take on whatever allegations will be thrown by Suarez and the rest of the opposition against the administration for as long as these will be based on facts.

Coloma’s words were echoed by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte, in an interview over the state-run radio dzRB, although she stated that Malacañang is currently getting “confused” as regards to the statements that are coming out from the Lakas-Kampi CMD.

Valte’s confusion came when she was asked to respond on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s reported criticisms that the Aquino administration is currently experiencing a so-called “vacuum of leadership” given its failure to address pressing issues in the land.

(Actually kami po ‘yung naguguluhan sa sinasabi pong nagkakaroon na vacuum of leadership at meron pong mga cinite na pagkakataon. Pero, on the other hand, kami naman po, kami po ang naguguluhan kung ano po…baka po merong confusion sa leadership po ng Lakas dahil hindi po nagkaka-tugma ‘yung mga sinasabi nila.)

“Actually, we are the one getting confused over her (Arroyo’s) claims that there’s a vacuum of leadership complete with some circumstances cited. But, on the other hand…I guess there is a confusion over the leadership of Lakas because their statements do not converge,” Valte said.

Valte was referring to the recent declaration of Suarez that the minority is preparing for an “all-out offensive” against the members of the Aquino administration while maintaining their supposed “critical cooperation” with the government.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD president Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. earlier clarified that he never gave a marching order to his partymates to engage in a word war against the members of the administration which apparently reinforced Malacañang’s suspicions that it’s only the Arroyos who were behind such moves.

Valte also denied the elder Arroyo’s reported assertion that Aquino was just practically demonizing her and her allies instead of finding ways on how to effectively address the current problems confronting his administration.

She insisted that demonizing the former president was not the intention of Aquino when he ordered his officials to unearth the so-called ‘landmines’ left by the previous administration, claiming that the President was only doing it to strengthen the social programs of his government.

Valte cited as an example the actions taken by Aquino when he ordered the Department of Budget and Management to rationalize the salaries and benefits for the high-ranking officials of some government-owned and -controlled corporations.

“Because of that, we were able to save some funds which we can use for other things geared toward the social programs of the administration. That is just one of the concrete examples so certainly, we do not agree with the allegation that all we know is how to criticize (the previous administration) and we’re not doing our jobs,” Valte stressed.

Saying Lakas-Kampi-CMD has a “higher duty to the Filipino people to support government policies that hasten economic development and intensify efforts to fight poverty and official corruption,” the party’s new secretary-general, meanwhile, said Lakas-Kampi will maintain a critical collaboration with the Aquino administration.

Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II said the party “is prepared and willing to cooperate with the administration on these policies as a matter of duty.”

“But we will do it responsibly,” Aquino said. “And that means Lakas-Kampi will be vigilant and ready to criticize or denounce any backsliding by the administration when necessary.”

Aquino assumed the post of secretary-general after Sen. Bong Revilla inherited the position of party president at a meeting of the Lakas-Kampi executive council last February.

Aquino recalled that Lakas-Kampi has always been the “vehicle of our people’s aspiration for a better life, economic parity and social justice”.

Aquino said the country achieved unprecedented economic growth, prosperity and stability under the leadership of President Arroyo, the former Lakas-Kampi chairman, from 2001 to 2010.

“The party did not achieve this through political confrontation—but through the power of alliances and national consensus,” Aquino said.

He said the party remains committed to this “sure and tested path” as the new de facto political opposition.

He said politics should build consensus on government policies and programs that will “hasten development, eradicate official corruption and create a national economy that benefits all.”

He said Lakas-Kampi has applied Christian democratic values in building the nation’s economy. –Aytch S. de la Cruz, Charlie V. Manalo, Daily Tribune

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