By CHRISTINE O AVENDAÑO
|BIR boss Kim Jacinto-Henares|
MANILA: The gold miner whom the group of Victor “Vic” Siman visited in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, hours before a police-military team killed all 13 of them in Atimonan, Quezon province, 12 days ago has become a person of interest for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares said on Thursday that the BIR would investigate Ronnie Habitan whether he was properly paying his taxes.
Habitan’s name cropped up after the daughter of Supt. Alfredo Perez Consemino, one those killed, disclosed that her father’s group, led by Siman, met Habitan earlier on Jan 6.
Just the other day, Habitan was identified by Supt Hansel Marantan, the ground commander of the police operation at Atimonan, as the one who had tipped him off of Siman’s group traveling to Quezon that day.
At a news conference at the Department of Justice, Henares said the BIR “will eventually look into” the income taxes of those involved in the incident “once it’s a bit settled down” as her office did “not want to contribute to confusion” now.
“But one thing that I really want to look into is the mining operation in CamNorte because there’s this small-scale mining law.
"There’s an excise tax of two per cent and the small scale mining law requires all small-scale miners to sell only to the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas),” the BIR chief said.
Henares then zeroed in on her interest in Habitan who she said had admitted to being into small-scale mining and to be selling gold.
“Does he pay taxes?” issue is one of the things the BIR will look into Habitan’s case, she said.
Habitan is known in CamNorte as a “high-grade” miner who hit pay dirt in small-scale mining, Chief Insp Sam Belmonte, acting police chief of Jose Panganiban, was quoted as saying in an Inquirer report on Jan11.
The two-story house of Habitan in the town has a black BMW in the garage.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoted a source as saying that Siman allegedly invested in gold mining in CamNorte after he started running the illegal numbers racket “jueteng” in the province.
The informant alleged that Siman also owned a gold mining operation in Paracale, Camarines Norte.
“That’s why he brought along Supt Alfredo Consemino on that fateful trip because the police official was his security consultant in his mining operation,” the source had said.
Gold black market
As much as 95 per cent of gold trade in the country is now made through the black market, according to the BSP.
The amount corresponded to the drop in the volume of gold sold by traders and small-scale miners to the BSP after the government began collecting in 2011 a seven-percent tax on gold sales - a two-percent excise tax and a five-percent creditable withholding tax.
The BSP is required to buy all the gold from local producers.
But gold traders have shied away from the BSP, selling the metal instead to smugglers, since the BIR imposed the tax at the point of sale.
Vic Villamar, a driver of Habitan, earlier told the Inquirer that Siman’s group was in his boss’ house in Barangay Plaridel in Jose Panganiban town on Jan 6.
Villamar said Siman’s group arrived at about 6am and talked with his boss in a room.
The driver said the group stayed until about 11am then left after having lunch with Habitan. -- Inquirer