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Mighty needs P3b to settle cigarette tax case, says Duterte

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he was ready to turn a blind eye to the oldest cigarette manufacturer’s alleged use of counterfeit tax stamps in exchange for more than P3 billion in donations to government hospitals. 

“I will forget about the printing of 1.5 billion worth of fake stamps. I will agree to this: Pay double, I’ll forget about it. Anyway, I assure him that if someone in power pursue the case, I can always pardon him,” Duterte said in his native Visayan referring to Mighty Corporation president Alex Wongchuking.

“Three billion and we’re settled. Tell him.” 

He made the statement even as the Bureau of Immigration placed Wongchuking and his brother Ceasar Dy Wongchuking under its lookout bulletin order on the orders of the Justice department.

Immigration spokeswoman Antonette Mangrobang said the Wongchuking brothers were still in the country.

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She said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered Commissioner Jaime Morente to include the  brothers in its lookout bulletin due to the ongoing investigation on the alleged seizure of  cigarettes with fake stamps worth P2 billion.

Mighty Corporation president Alex Wongchuking

Duterte said everything would be settled between him and Mighty Corp. should it give in to his demand to donate money to the hospitals in the slums and conflict-driven areas. 

“Here’s the deal. He offered 1.5 [billion] which is definitely unacceptable to me. There was deceit. So he needs to give double. He should offer three billion,” Duterte said.

“He should give one billion for Basilan. He should give it directly to the Secretary of Health, not to me, because I want to fix the hospital there. One billion for Jolo because I also want to fix the hospital there. Then in Manila, one billion for the Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo.”

Duterte, who earlier admitted being offered bribes from Mighty Corp. while he was mayor, threatened economic sabotage raps and arrest against Wongchuking following the discovery of fake tax stamps in a raid in San Simon, Pampanga. 

He then said he was willing to drop the falsification raps and instead pursue the tax evasion case against the cigarette manufacturer if they gave in to his demands.

“This is my proposal to him. His lawyers said tax evasion. I said falsification. But if it was part of the tax evasion case, I will agree,” Duterte said. 

“Tax cases can be compromised. It can be settled if it’s only tax liability. When you failed to pay your taxes, intentionally or unintentionally, you can settle it. The law allows settlements, compromise. That’s the word of the law,” he said.  

Rumors earlier circulated that a group of Mindanao lawmakers tried to bribe the President in behalf of a tobacco firm, which had been implicated in tax evasion and smuggling, a claim belied by Palace officials. 

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