Honasan’s chief of staff writes PCIJ

SENATOR Gregorio ‘Gringo’ B. Honasan II’s chief of staff, Celia S. Marasigan, has sent a letter to PCIJ requesting a correction of a detail in PCIJ’s story on taxation and the May 2013 elections, titled “5 new senators, 8 losing bets did not register with BIR.”

The story named Honasan as one of the 13 candidates who did not register as withholding agents, according to a document that PCIJ secured from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) central office.

According to Marasigan, Honasan registered as a withholding agent with BIR’s Revenue District Office-45 in Marikina City on March 7, 2013. She sent a copy of Honasan’s application for registration information update (BIR Form No. 1905) as proof, and copies of BIR Form No. 1601-E and bank deposit slips showing the senator’s monthly remittances to the BIR from April to June 2013. (See Marasigan’s letter and attachments.)

Marasigan’s letter was made in response to a story published by the Philippine Star titled “PCIJ: 5 senators fail to register as withholding agents” on November 17, 2013. The report was written by PhilStar’s Sheila Crisostomo who attended PCIJ’s press briefing last Nov. 15 on campaign finance issues in the May 2013 elections, where the story was also discussed.

Revenue Regulation No. 8-2009, issued in October 2009, subjects campaign expenditures to five-percent withholding tax. Candidates and political parties participating in an election are thus required to register or update their status as withholding agents with the BIR to be able to withhold tax from their expenditures. They must also secure an Authority to Print (ATP) official receipts from the Bureau to be able to issue receipts to their donors.

To check patterns of compliance with this requirement, PCIJ wrote BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares and requested information on the registration status of the 33 candidates for senator and the 12 political parties that fielded them.

The Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) that the candidates and parties enrolled in the Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditure (SOCE) they filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was used as reference.

On August 29, 2013, BIR provided PCIJ a validation list that identified who registered and did not register, and who secured and did not secure an ATP or the BIR-issued temporary receipt, among the candidates and parties. (See BIR document.)

The BIR central office furnished PCIJ a document that listed Honasan (with TIN 156-551-437) secured the temporary receipt only and did not register as a withholding agent.

On Sept. 3, 2013, PCIJ sent a letter to Honasan to verify his registration status with BIR and details in his SOCE. PCIJ specifically asked why he was not able to register, according to BIR data. Honasan’s staff said that the senator will respond, but PCIJ did not get a reply until the story was published.

To verify the documents from Honasan’s chief of staff, PCIJ called the RDO-45 of Marikina City On Nov. 20, 2013. Joey Flores, a registration officer, told PCIJ that Honasan had indeed registered as a withholding agent with RDO-45.