EX-PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his family at the presidential palace on the day of his 1965 inaugural. — MALACANANG.GOV.PH

CIVIC groups have intensified their campaign against the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos after the country’s tax agency disclosed that it had demanded billions of pesos in estate and income tax payments from his heirs.

In a statement, Akbayan Party-list asked the public to reject former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s presidential ambition so the government could go after his family’s ill-gotten wealth.

“Based on our initial computation, the Marcoses’ tax debt to the government can employ 1.97 million workers at the prevailing regional minimum wage and 21.6 average working days a month,” it said. “This would reduce the unemployment rate by 4.49 percentage points.”

In a statement, Akbayan said the public should reject the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in the May 9 presidential election “in order to fully retrieve his family’s ill-gotten wealth, including their unpaid estate taxes.”

“They robbed the Filipino people of nearly two million jobs and better opportunities,” it said. “The family of Bongbong Marcos are not only plunderers, they are also job killers.”

In a separate statement, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) said the Marcos family has not only refused to return what they have stolen, “they also continue to lie about the billions of unpaid taxes to the government.”

“That Marcos, Jr. has the audacity to run for president amid his and his family’s refusal to pay their dues is nothing short of abominable,” it said. “A liar, convict and tax evader should never be allowed to run for any public office — especially the highest position in the country.”

The group said the money could be used to fund social services amid surging global fuel prices. 

Marcos lawyer and spokesman Victor D. Rodriguez did not immediately reply to a text message seeking comment.

Mr. Marcos on Wednesday cited “fake news” surrounding their unsettled estate taxes. “Let’s leave it to the lawyers to discuss it because the so-called facts that they quote are not facts at all,” he told a news briefing. “Whatever the court orders me to do, I will do.”

“The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) did send a written demand letter to the Marcos heirs on Dec. 2, 2021 regarding their tax liabilities,” Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay said in a letter to Aksyon Demokratiko party on March 14.

Aksyon Demokratiko Chairman Ernesto M. Ramel, Jr. had inquired from both BIR and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) this month about the status of the tax deficiencies. Aksyon Demokratiko is the political party of Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso, who is also running for president.

Mr. Ramel sought clarification from the PCGG on March 9 whether the government had reached a deal on the taxes.

If there was indeed a deal, PCGG must disclose the details because these are a “matter of public interest,” he said. “If your answer is ‘No,’ then this is another proof that the camp of Marcos, Jr. has again lied as they always do in so many issues about their family, including their ill-gotten wealth.”

He earlier said the Marcos family’s refusal to settle the taxes is a clear demonstration of “abuse of power, disregard for the laws enforced by the government and lack of respect for citizens who religiously pay the taxes imposed on them.”

Mr. Rodriguez earlier said the pieces of property subject to the tax were still under litigation. He also said PCGG and BIR had agreed to wait for a decision on the case before collections were enforced.

PCGG, the agency created in the mid-1980s to recover ill-gotten wealth of the dictator and his cronies, on March 11 said there was a “verbal understanding” between it and BIR to collect estate taxes on all Marcos assets except those that had been seized by the government, as well as Swiss funds in escrow.

“It may not be accurate to state that the said agreement was ‘to determine with accuracy the fair and just tax base to be used in computing estate taxes, if any’ because as early as 1993, BIR already executed its final assessment when it levied and sold 11 real properties in Tacloban City,” it said in reply to Mr. Ramel’s inquiries.

PCGG said BIR in 1991 assessed the estate of Ferdinand Marcos P23.29 billion in estate taxes, P184.16 million in unpaid income taxes of Mr. Marcos and his wife Imelda for 1985 and 1986 and P20,410 in unpaid income taxes against the dictator for 1982 to 1985.

In 1993, BIR levied and auctioned off 11 Marcos properties in Tacloban after the family failed to file an administrative protest. The lots were awarded to the state in the absence of bidders, PCGG said.

The Supreme Court in 1997 denied a plea by Marcos, Jr. to void the levies as it ruled the tax assessments had become final and unappealable.

The P23-billion estate tax had ballooned to P203.8 billion due to interests and penalties after the Marcoses refused to pay it, Mr. Ramel said this week, citing computations by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio in a Sept. 30, 2021 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Akbayan said Mr. Marcos could not dismiss the arguments as “fake news” since government agencies have confirmed the unpaid taxes.

The dictator stole as much as $10 billion (P522 billion) from the Filipino people, according to government estimates, earning him a Guinness World Record for the “greatest robbery of a government.”

PCGG, created in 1987 to recover ill-gotten wealth of the family and their cronies, has recovered about P171 billion. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza