OP ED EDITORIALS & CARTOONS: …  The lucky Ligots

So complete, it seems, is the memory loss on so recent an event that hardly anyone flinched or raised a hue and cry when the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) ruled last week to acquit retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot and his wife, Erlinda, in a P428-million tax deficiency case. The court threw out the charges based on the prosecution’s alleged failure to present enough evidence and their improper use of the country’s strict bank secrecy laws to look into the assets of the Ligots.

“Ligots who?” was probably the question many asked themselves while scrolling through their newsfeed for the day. But just eight years ago, in 2011, the Ligots were front-page news for weeks.


Jacinto Ligot was a former military comptroller who, with his wife Erlinda, became the subject of a wide-ranging Senate investigation into massive corrupt practices in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The tax-evasion charges were among the cases that were thrown at the Ligots after details of their unexplained, mind-boggling wealth came to light.

In particular, as this paper wrote in an editorial following Ligot’s appearance before the Senate:


“Ligot, the military comptroller when Gen. Angelo Reyes was AFP chief of staff, was confronted with records showing that his wife traveled to the United States 42 times, and bought two houses there, one of which she paid for in cold cash amounting to $183,868 in 2002… The Ligots are said to own, in all, eight pieces of real estate in the US.”

The Bureau of Internal Revenue’s tax evasion case against the Ligots maintained that they failed to supply correct information in their income tax returns from 2001 to 2004. The couple’s properties here and abroad, added the BIR, had a total value that far exceeded Ligot’s declared income of some P770,000 as a former AFP comptroller. His wife was a full-time homemaker.


Ligot made a memorable appearance before the Senate, chiefly because of the practiced bumbling act he put on. He denied knowing anything about his wife’s multiple trips to the United States; his wife kept them “secret,” he said.

Erlinda was out of the country for a straight three months at one point; Ligot said he neither noticed, nor looked for his wife. (Then Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s incredulous reaction: “Even our pet dogs or cats, when they go astray, we look for them. What more if it’s your wife missing.”)

As for the houses, Ligot said he learned of their existence only when the Sandiganbayan slapped them with forfeiture cases. When he confronted his wife about the new houses, he said he had to drop the matter posthaste because Erlinda turned hysterical.

This is the kind of avid, brazen, unrepentant corruption case that should have made for a slam dunk in court. But, eight years later, the CTA exonerated the Ligots after it struck off the record a key piece of evidence — the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s investigation report showing that the couple deposited P364.18 million in several banks and made substantial investments.


The report was disallowed because, according to the court, the prosecution had no written consent from the couple as required by the country’s bank secrecy law. (Which begs the question: Would any accused ever consent to giving out such potentially incriminating information?)

Although the court ruled that the Ligots still face a related P55-million forfeiture case at the antigraft court since they did not question the BIR’s final assessment notice, that comes as decidedly small comfort to taxpayers and the public at large who are, once again, confronted by a high-profile case of corruption and misuse of the people’s money ultimately derailed by technicalities, and the culprits allowed to get away.

The other deficiency cited by the court is even more jarring for being so basic: The prosecutors, it said, presented certified copies or photocopies of documents that were not adequately authenticated as required by the Rules of Court. “Documents which have been identified and marked as exhibits during pre-trial or trial but which were not formally offered in evidence cannot in any manner be treated as evidence,” the CTA pointed out.

Think about it: Government prosecutors had years to research and prepare the documents that would have clinched the case. How to explain this glaring negligence, or perhaps ignorance, of court and evidentiary rules? And who must account for what appears to be so remiss and shoddy a work that, in dropping the ball in this case, the people’s lawyers gave the Ligots exactly the lucky break they needed to squeak out of the law’s grasp?




 MANILA STANDARD – Striking a balance


The Manila Times – …. …TROPICAL STORM ‘AMANG’

 The Philippine Daily Inquirer – The lucky Ligots

Pilipino STAR Ngayon – Balik-taas na naman ang gas


SINGAPORE’S The Straits Times

The Straits Times says

SMEs must take more decisive steps

Two surveys have drawn attention to the well-being and prospects of Singapore’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to one survey, many SMEs take the risk of cyber attacks too lightly, although three in five SMEs said that they suffered cyber-security breaches that resulted in business disruptions and data leaks over a 12-month period. In the survey of 300 SMEs, only 30 per cent of those affected notified their customers or employees about the data leaks. Instead, more than three in five polled said they believed that large corporations were more at risk of cyber attacks than SMEs. According to the second survey, most companies in Singapore are also not investing enough in their workers, with only 12 per cent putting money on better training for their employees. At the same time, almost one-third of them say the task of training their workers in digital skills is a major concern, topped by the lack of suitable manpower with technological expertise, a shortage highlighted by about 40 per cent of the companies. But the first challenge they face is getting people with the right skills and attitude, with almost two-thirds of large companies as well as SMEs saying so.

The issues identified by the two surveys are not unrelated. Many SMEs behave like little firms although the sector accounts collectively for the largest part of the employment map. Singapore has about 200,000 SMEs which employ around 2.2 million workers, who make up almost 70 per cent of the workforce. Yet, unlike the remaining 30 per cent – whose employers are large enough individually to invest funds in training staff and bolstering cyber security – many SMEs get by, believing that they are too small to fail. That attitude suggests that they regard the threat of cyber attacks as something that is likely to afflict only large companies, which they see as the prized targets of hackers aiming to disable and bring down entire ecosystems. But the opposite is true.



Asylum policy adjustments welcome

Free and not free. Left, Immigration officers escort Hakeem al-Araibi, in detention for hearings that could send him back to face political charges in Bahrain. Right, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland embraces asylum seeker, whisked out of ou6Ip. © Bangkok Post Public Company Limited. All rights reserved.


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