Juan Miguel Zubiri is doing a great disservice to the country.
He chose to sweep under the rug the Marcos family’s unpaid estate tax, which he believed was an election issue.
No, Mr. Senator, it was not an election issue. It was based on a Supreme Court decision decades ago, which the family chose to ignore. It is non-negotiable. Court records could not be erased or altered.
The Marcos family cannot just ignore the court ruling that ordered them to pay P23 billion. The estate tax liability has ballooned to more than P200 billion, according to retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has religiously demanded payment over the years but the Marcos family has been evading the issue, hiding behind legal technicalities.
Before the elections, Carpio and many other anti-Marcos groups had warned that the family of the late dictator would never settle the tax liability if Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. won the May 9 balloting.
They feared the BIR could no longer collect the tax deficiency if Marcos became the president and the family could even take back other assets it claimed it owned before the dictator was removed from power in February 1986.
The BIR’s assessments on the Marcos family’s estate tax liability were based on assets that were not sequestered in 1986 when the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was created to recover the stolen and hidden assets of the dictator, his family and their business cronies.
The estate tax issue is just the tip of the iceberg. The Marcos presidency could usher in a new era that would change many things, including perspectives on the country’s history.
Many feared the country would stop celebrating the EDSA “People Power” anniversary that marks the ouster of the dictator in 1986.
The fears have come true. Marcos Jr. won the presidency with a big majority, the first post-EDSA leader to do so. With a huge popular vote, Marcos Jr. can do whatever he wants with less opposition.
Zubiri, who aspires to become the next Senate president, was willing to forego the tax deficiency, asking journalists who asked him about the Marcos estate tax liability to “move on” and forget it as an election issue.
Under Philippine laws, the Marcos family, even if Marcos Jr. sits as president, cannot evade the tax liability. It will hound them for the next six years.
President-elect Marcos will lose his moral authority to demand from the people that they pay their taxes if he himself has a huge estate tax liability.
Zubiri is a party to this travesty of justice. He cannot wash his hands clean. As a senator of the Republic, Zubiri must uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Republic.
Ignoring his duty is tantamount to treason. He does not deserve his seat. He does not deserve to be elected Senate president. He will just lead a rubber stamp upper house of Congress.
What will happen to the country if leaders refuse to obey the laws of the land?
President-elect Marcos should take the initiative to settle the estate tax liability if he wants to start with a clean slate and unite the country under his leadership.
The estimated P200-billion estate tax liability is no joke. It could help pay off the trillions of pesos in debt left behind by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Some of the debt, which were incurred during the coronavirus pandemic, sadly went to corrupt deals made with favored Chinese-Filipino businessmen from Davao City for substandard face shields and other items, including personal protective equipment.
A Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry found that the proceeds from the anomalous transactions were used to buy luxury cars at a time when millions of Filipinos were out of jobs and livelihoods and were relying on government cash aid.
The Pharmally deals are unforgivable and Zubiri also wanted to forget these irregularities, refusing to sign the committee report because Duterte was dragged into the issue.
Zubiri was willing to forget these things as long as he got a plum position in government. He wanted the people who elected him into office to suffer more because of his own selfish interests.
The Philippines does not need elected politicians like Zubiri, who would sacrifice the welfare of the people and the nation in exchange for his political ambitions.
Zubiri’s loyalty must be to the Constitution, the laws of the land, and the people he serves, and not to the political leadership that will help him get the position he wants so desperately.
The Filipino people still remember how he had benefited from the election fraud committed in 2007, which denied Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III a seat in the Senate.
It took nearly four years for Zubiri to surrender his seat to Koko Pimentel after the Maguindanao governor, Zaldy Ampatuan, and other province officials revealed the election irregularities that favored Zubiri.
A disgraced Zubiri resigned but did not admit the poll fraud. He lost in the 2013 elections when he tried to regain his Senate seat but succeeded in 2016 and defended his seat in the 2022 elections.
Zubiri has rehabilitated his political career and personal reputation but he might lose it again if he continues to ignore calls for the Marcos family to settle the estate tax liability.
Zubiri must rise above politics and selfish interests and do the right thing. As the next Senate president, he has the moral ascendancy to demand from the president-elect the settlement of all the Marcos family’s tax liabilities.
He could help regain the public’s trust in government along with other leaders who can rise above politics to uphold the Constitution and the country’s laws.
The Marcos family, including Bongbong, will forever be hounded by the estate tax issue as long as it remains unsettled. Zubiri can save himself by rising above politics.