7 March 2017:
MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:40 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the arrest of the owner of Mighty Corporation following reports that someone had tried to bribe the president, Salvador Panelo, the chief presidential legal counsel, said on Tuesday.
Panelo said that the president ordered the arrest of Alexander Wongchuking for charges of economic sabotage.
The STAR reported that the president of the cigarette company showed up at the office of the National Bureau of Investigation to deny accusations that cigarettes seized from their warehouses in Pampanga last week were fake.
Only courts can issue arrest warrants.
Bureaus consolidating evidence for tax case
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs are already consolidating evidence for submission to the Department of Justice in preparation for the filing of an “air-tight” tax evasion case and other charges against Mighty Corp.
“The government needs to first establish strong evidence to pin down this cigarette manufacturer on such charges,” the Finance chief said.
He added: “We must make sure the charges stick not only to haul the guilty parties, including their possible cohorts in the government, into jail but to send a clear message to big-time tax dodgers that the Duterte administration is dead set on putting an end to their nefarious activities and sending all of them behind bars.”
Dominguez issued the statement a week after he called on the BIR and the BOC to file as soon as possible appropriate charges against persons and companies that own the P2.2 billion in smuggled and counterfeit products seized in a series of raids.
These products included cigarettes, shoes and clothes.
Among the confiscated items were cigarette brands manufactured by Mighty Corp. with fake tax stamps. These cigarettes were confiscated by Customs operatives in raids in Pampanga, General Santos City and Zamboanga.
“They (BOC and BIR) should speed up their investigations and also look into the possible involvement of bureaucrats acting as protectors of these large-scale tax evasion attempts,” he said.
Palace mum on details
Early on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella declined to comment on whether it was Mighty Corp. that made the supposed offer.
“I don’t have any opinions regarding the matter. Some things were discussed in the cabinet and it’s best to leave it there for the moment,” said in a press briefing.
The spokesperson also declined to divulge information on the alleged attempt to bribe the president.
When asked if it was true that he “berated” lawmakers from Mindanao for allegedly making the offer on behalf of the owner of a company, Abella clarified that he did not berate the politicians and simply informed them of the attempt.
Abella said that the public should just wait for the DOJ to do its job.