By Ma. Reina L Tolentino/Manila Times
The Court of Tax Appeals’ First Division has ordered Rappler Holdings Corp. and journalist Maria Ressa to stand trial over tax evasion, denying their plea to drop the charges filed against them.
The tax court’s ruling came a day after Ressa, president and chief executive officer of news website Rappler that has been critical of the Duterte government, posted P100,000 bail over a separate cyber-libel charge.
In two of the tax evasion cases, Rappler Holdings, owner of Rappler, was accused of supplying incorrect information in its quarterly value-added tax returns for the third and fourth quarters of 2015. These cases involve value-added tax deficiencies totalling
Rappler Holdings was also accused of filing incorrect information in its income tax return for 2015.
In another case, Rappler Holdings and Ressa were charged with attempting to evade or defeat tax liabilities amounting to P48.72mn.
“As regards the allegation of the accused that the facts charged do not constitute an offence, we find the language and the wordings therein sufficient to constitute the crimes charged under Sections 254 and 255 of the 1997 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code),” the court said in a 13-page resolution promulgated on February 7.
The court explained that the primary purpose of an information or charge sheet is to enable someone of common of understanding to know what offence is being charged.
“We believe that the four amended Informations accomplished the said purpose. The Supreme Court has ruled that an Information need only to state the ultimate facts constituting the offence and not the finer details of why and how the crime was committed. The issue of whether or not the accused is considered a ‘dealer in securities’ is a matter which can be ventilated by the presentation of evidence during trial,” it said.
Rappler Holdings and Ressa had filed a motion seeking the nullification of the charge sheets, or the return of the case to the Department of Justice (DoJ), or suspension of all proceedings until the resolution of their motion for reconsideration before the DoJ.
But the court said that “the arguments relative to the pending determination of the motion for reconsideration have been rendered moot as the plaintiff already submitted the resolution of Asst State Prosecutor, Atty. Zenamar JL Machacon Caparros to this Court on Jan 24, 2019, denying the said motion for reconsideration.”
“As to the pendency of the administrative case against the accused instituted by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), this should not be a bar to the institution of the criminal proceedings before this Court as it is well-settled that an assessment is not necessary before a criminal charge for tax evasion may be instituted,” it said.
“Let this case be set for pre-trial on March 13, 2019 at 8:30am. Parties are hereby notified to submit their respective pre-trial briefs at least five days before the date of pre-trial,” the court said.
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