One of the main goals of the Aquino administration since taking over the helm of government on June 30, 2010 has been to implement a sound tax-collection system that will give it the needed massive funds for its projects and infrastructure programs.
Since then, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has cracked down on individuals deemed "dishonest" about their tax returns, with high-profile warnings about pursuing all tax evaders—especially known moneymakers in the entertainment field.
Singling out entertainers was, of course, branded as discriminatory—and rightly so, which left BIR Chief Kim Henares backpedaling on her exhortations against the stars and issuing a clarification.
In any event, Malacañang has highlighted the campaign to generate revenue through efficient tax collection as a high point of the administration, as President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III marks his first 100 days in office on October 8.
TOP 500 TAXPAYERS. While the BIR has been loud and relentless in its pursuit of tax evaders, it has also come up with a way to applaud individuals diligently paying their taxes—except that the move has ended up alarming the very same diligent taxpayers it means to praise.
Sometime in April this year, former BIR Commissioner Joel Tan Torres released a List naming the Top 20 Taxpayers of 2008.
At the time, the BIR explained that making the List public was a way of encouraging more individuals to file proper tax returns. In addition, Commissioner Torres said the BIR was extolling the individuals in the List as "role models" for other citizens.
An article published in PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) on July 29, 2010 noted: "The BIR early this year released only the names but refrained from divulging 'sensitive' and personal information about the individuals, including the total amount they earned and the corresponding remittances." (CLICK HERE to read related article.)
Withholding the actual and complete tax-remittance figures was explained by the bureau as a move to safeguard the "privacy" of the individuals named in the List.
In fact, the BIR pulled out the List from its official website in its entirety, to respond to urgent requests from the very people appearing on the List. A number of individuals and businesses had raised a howl over their income-tax records being exposed for all to see, citing real fears for their "safety."
Kidnapping for ransom is, as a we know, still an active industry in the country.
However, just recently the BIR's list of 2008's Top Individual Taxpayers was printed by BizNews Asia, a local business magazine, which proceeded to enumerate not only all the names ranked from No. 1 to No. 500, but also the corresponding taxes they paid.
PEP chooses not to reveal any of the actual numbers, nor even all the names.
What PEP does find interesting and wants its readers to know is that some 25 showbiz personalities are in the List.
In fact, the Top 3 slots are occupied by celebrities—namely, champion boxer, part-time actor, and Sarangani province representative Manny Pacquiao, controversial game-show host Willie Revillame, and heartthrob actor Piolo Pascual.
Even showbiz personalities who had previously encountered, or are currently encountering, tax problems with the BIR have also entered the list.
Judy Ann Santos—whose tax evasion charges filed by the tax-collection bureau in 2002 was upheld by the Supreme Court on August 26, 2008—ranks No. 25 overall among the country's top taxpayers for 2008, ironically the very same year the highest court issued its judgment against the popular actress.
And John Lloyd Cruz, who was hauled to court by the BIR in May 2010 for allegedly failing to surrender his accounting books for 2004, is 2008's Top 116 out of 500 top taxpayers. Incidentally, Judge Alfredo Ampuan of the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court junked the case against John Lloyd last August 4, citing "lack of probable cause."
Broadcasters and media personalities Mike Enriquez and Mel Tiangco also figure prominently in the total ranking, landing in No. 23 and No. 45, respectively.
Other names likewise included are theater actress Lea Salonga, Bea Alonzo, Marian Rivera, Luis Manzano, Angel Locsin, Dingdong Dantes, Comedy King Dolphy, Carmina Villarroel, Rufa Mae Quinto, Richard Gomez, Jericho Rosales, and Ai Ai de las Alas, among others.
Below are the names of the celebrities, media personalities, and network executives who, according to BizNews Asia, have made it to the Top 10 of the BIR's LIST OF TOP 500 INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYERS FOR 2008.
Rank 1: Emmanuel "Manny" Dapidran Pacquiao (champion boxer / congressman)
Rank 2: Wilfredo "Willie" Buendia Revillame (television host / recording artist )
Rank 3: Piolo Jose Nonato Pascual (actor / recording artist)
Rank 8: Kristina "Kris" Aquino-Yap (actress / television host / inspirational-album artist)
Rank 10: Beethoven "Michael V" Bunagan (comedian / scriptwriter / stage performer)