If paying taxes is the minimum act of patriotism, then tax evasion should be tantamount to treason.
Indeed citizens are generally called upon to commit themselves in the service of country through a number of ways—serve in the Army, engage in community development, patronize local products and involve themselves in environmental conservation projects, among others.
Little do they know that love for country can be manifested in the seemingly simple, insignificant way of just paying the right taxes on time.
And yet, there are those who amassed great fortune but refused to pay what is due the State.
This is simply outrageous and unacceptable, even criminal.
Thus, President Duterte proposed placing suspected tax cheats under a hold departure order and charging them for “cheating the government.”
“I will order the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) to file cases. Once a case has been filed in court, your freedom to travel is curtailed,” Duterte said. “It is always a crime if you don’t pay your tax properly and correctly.”
The President expressed disappointment at how many millionaire-businessmen have not paid the right taxes to the government.
“You are enjoying the planet (called the) Republic of Philippines. You enjoy its roads, you have the protection of the police. You are rich and you have police officers as security guards or the military. And we kept a blind eye on that,” he noted.
“If Internal Revenue Commissioner (Caesar) Dulay can give me a list of violators, then you travel a lot. I will ask the Immigration (to put you in a watchlist) so that you cannot travel anymore,” Duterte added.
At the same time, Duterte gave assurance that businessmen who pay the proper taxes would be left alone. “We will have no problems. And I will never allow anybody to disturb you,” he said.
Leaders of local and foreign business groups said they have no problem with such undertaking as long as those corporations or business personalities to be named are really violators.
“We think this is good as it will instill fear in the hearts of those tax evaders. We see no problem (in naming them) provided that there is basis and it is really clear that they are indeed tax evaders,” Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said.
“It’s a good idea to go after tax evaders. Best way to start is with those who have existing cases. This way there is a basis,” National Competitiveness Council co-chairman for the private sector Bill Luz added.
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president George Barcelon said Duterte’s pronouncement to shame tax evaders is a welcome sight for the business community as he is “simply stressing for everyone to pay their taxes and reminding the BIR to collect them.”
Barcelon said it would be best for the government to follow due process in prosecuting the proven violators.
The foreign business community also expressed their support.
“While the shame campaign is certainly a deterrent for small and big evaders, I believe legal consequences are a much more effective deterrent, especially for businesses,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Guenter Taus said.
“We support all legal efforts to make taxpayers pay what they should pay. We would like to see more tax evaders lose their stolen tax assets and go to jail under the two to four year provision of RA 7642. The US Tax Code provides for much heavier penalties and up to five years in jail for tax evasion,” American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes added.