By Anna Leah Gonzales

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MANILA – Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. ordered the BIR to look into the names and entities mentioned during the ongoing Senate inquiry against Bamban Mayor Alice Guo.

“I have commanded the whole BIR to cooperate with the Senate and look into the mentioned names of individuals and entities as well as their accumulated wealth. The BIR will fully cooperate with the Senate investigation on Mayor Guo. The BIR will also conduct its own investigation against the said individuals and entities,” Lumagui said in a statement on Friday.

“Due process will be followed. If the income declared with the BIR does not match the value of the properties amassed during the same taxable years, criminal cases for tax evasion will be filed. The same charges can be filed against conspirators and the corporate officers of the companies used to amass such wealth,” he added.

Lumagui assured the public that the BIR is monitoring the investigation in the Senate.

He added that cash, properties, and other sources of wealth shown during the hearings should be substantiated with proper payment of taxes.

“The BIR welcomes all informants, whether from the private sector or government agencies, that could provide the necessary documents and pieces of evidence in auditing Mayor Guo and the aforementioned companies,” said Lumagui.

Earlier this week, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the suspension of Guo and two others for up to six months in connection with the graft charges filed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The DILG alleged that Guo allowed illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOS) to operate in Bamban.

POGOS

Senators earlier called for the total ban of POGOS in the country.

Sought for comment on the call for POGO ban, Finance Secretary Ralph Recto in an interview with reporters said the Department of Finance would study it carefully.

“It is within the right of the lawmakers to talk about the ban on POGOs. That’s fine with me. I have no objection to that,” Recto said during the sidelines of the LRT-1 Cavite extension site inspection in Parañaque.

“Today maraming POGO na hindi talaga (there are a lot of POGOS that are not really) POGOS. They’re doing something else but we generalize and call all of them POGOS. Let’s study it carefully. I have to consult also with the PAGCOR how much are they earning there, just to double check,” Recto added.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian and Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros commended BIR’s “proactive action.”

“We commend the BIR’s proactive action to investigate the sources of income of the Guo Companies and determine their liabilities to the government,” Gatchalian said in a statement, noting Guo’s declared income of her companies is not commensurate to her assets and investments, as shown in a recent Senate hearing.

In a separate statement, Hontiveros said she will not be surprised if Guo will be charged with tax evasion “considering that all documents with her name presented to the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality are questionable.”

The senator assured that her panel is “ready to work with the BIR in the investigation.” (with a report from Wilnard Bacelonia/PNA)