19th Congress may take over Pharmally, Marcos estate tax probes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 9) — The next Congress may handle two crucial issues, one which failed to reach a conclusion while the other failing to move forward in the Senate under the 18th Congress, even as new leaders and a new set of lawmakers take charge.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Sen. Koko Pimentel expressed optimism that further investigation on the controversy involving Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. could be reopened, after the draft report of the Blue Ribbon Committee failed to secure plenary approval in the 18th Congress.

READ: Hontiveros says varying 'shades of opposition' okay, ready to push Pharmally probe in next Congress 

"Sen. Risa Hontiveros has a plan to revive the Pharmally issue in the Senate in the 19th Congress," said Pimentel, one of the signatories to the Blue Ribbon committee's Pharmally draft report that failed to hurdle the plenary. "I think that can be done, but that would be referred to the same committee, the Senate Blue Ribbon which will now be headed by a new senator."

"The action of the chairman, we don't know, we cannot predict. But the attempt to revive it by refiling a resolution covering the same subject matter is possible," said the senator, a week after Pharmally executives Linconn Ong and Mohit Dargani were released from the Pasay City Jail.

Dargani and Ong were detained for failing to submit documents requested by the Blue Ribbon panel, previously headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, for its inquiry on the allegedly anomalous multibillion-peso deal between the government and Pharmally for the purchase of medical supplies for COVID-19 response.

READ: Pharmally execs Dargani, Ong released from Pasay City Jail 

Another attempt for a Marcos estate tax probe

Pimentel said he will also refile a measure seeking an inquiry on the Bureau of Internal Revenue's (BIR) failure to collect the unsettled estate taxes of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

READ: Sen. Pimentel pushes probe on BIR's failure to collect Marcos estate tax 

The resolution has remained pending in the committee level since it was filed in March.

"If the amount has been determined by the BIR and the heirs will claim, 'we don't have enough resources or we don't want to pay,' what is the next step that the BIR can take?" he asked.

The senator added that the issue can be taken up jointly by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the Blue Ribbon Committee.

"In my opinion, the topic makes sense because there will be deaths and estates need to be settled," he said. "Yung hearing na yun, if it can help people understand itong estate tax system ng ating bansa marami na tayong natulungan."

[Translation: If this hearing can help people understand the country's estate tax system, we could help a lot of people.]

The camp of president-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. previously insisted that the issue is not yet final, but a 1997 Supreme Court ruling rendered final judgment on the tax case, which orders the Marcos family to settle its unpaid taxes.

The estate tax liability worth around ₱27 billion in 1997 has ballooned to ₱203.8 billion as of 2021, including interest, surcharges, and penalties. The BIR penned a letter to the Marcos family in December, last year, demanding payment of their tax liabilities.