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The SC spokesman’s brave new world


MANILA, Philippines – The admonition against fighting City Hall applies

also to debating, even indirectly, the Supreme Court spokesman, officials of the Department of Finance are learning recently. Last week, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares wrote the Philippine Star a letter to clarify that the Department of Finance did not defy the high court when the Bureau of Treasury withheld the 20 per cent final tax on the PEACe Bonds that matured on October 18. The Court’s temporary restraining order reached the BTr only the following day. In a story with the headline “DOF, BIR defy SC order on PEACe bonds,” the Star quoted Midas Marquez, the Supreme Court spokesman, as saying: “disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order or judgment of the court is plainly contempt, which the court can initiate motu proprio.” Respondents should “avoid invoking technicalities to evade compliance, especially if compliance is still possible,” he added. In her letter, which was carried by the Star the following day, Henares wrote: “The tax was not withheld based on some so-called technicality but on the clear mandate of the Tax Code. As was pointed out in the Comment, the tax was withheld ‘inasmuch as: (1) no TRO was received enjoining the implementation of the 2011 BIR Rulings; (2) the 20 percent final withholding tax had not yet been collected, and the period for the collection thereof had not yet expired, and (3), considering the stiff statutory penalties prescribed under Sections 251 and 255 of the Tax Code in case of willful failure to withhold a tax.” Rather than clear up matters, Henares’ letter seems to have landed the DOF and BIR in even deeper trouble. This week, Marquez issued a statement saying officials of the DOF and BIR may be required “to show cause why he or she should not be held in contempt.” Privately, some officials of the DOF are miffed. However, they are hesitant to engage the Supreme Court spokesman in a media tit-for-tat, fearing it could be seen as further defiance. Could the DOF and BIR have avoided all these troubles if they were not so old-fashioned as to require a hard copy of the TRO before heeding its instructions in the late afternoon of October 18? After all, the Court’s spokesman already sent a text message that was carried by the news media before the close of office hours on October 18 saying that a TRO was on its way. Indeed, Marquez expected the DOF and BIR to act accordingly even if they have not officially received the court order. “The important point there is: were they given notice? Did they receive notice of the court’s order whether through a hard copy of the resolution or whether through the news?” he told ABS-CBN News Channel in an interview November 2. “If they learned of the news, government employees that they are, they should have been more prudent on acting, on whether they should hold on to it, whether they should remit it.” With those words, the Supreme Court spokesman may be ushering in a brave new world where court orders are delivered via real-time news and instant communication rather than courier or registered mail. So let it be texted, so it shall be done. Perhaps the Supreme Court spokesman should also consider changing his kingly name to Rameses? - Newsbreak


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