President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday vowed to deal harshly with the owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) whom he accused of not paying billions in taxes.
In a news conference, the President said the government will reclaim the state-owned prime Makati property called the Creekside/Mile Long complex from the Rufino/Prieto family.
“I will recover the property for the Filipinos. Everybody who has a tax obligation must start to talk now. Within six months time, I will go after them. I will get back. Inquirer, you have to let go of that property. It is not yours,” Duterte said.
“‘Yung mga crusaders na mga newspaper, bakit sila corrupt rin? (Those crusading newspapers, why are they also corrupt?) Answer me. That Mile Long. Who owns it? Rufino. Who is Rufino? He is married to Prieto… I assure you, after all of these things here, I will start to recover what is government’s property, including that Inquirer. The loudest, one of the loudest of it all. Crusader kuno, ‘yun pala crony rin (It acts like a crusader, but it is after all a crony),” he added.
Duterte’s statement came a few days after former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, a columnist of The Manila Times, revealed Rufino/Priesto’s “unpaid rentals” on the Mile Long complex.
“If government’s claims are valid, and its figures accurate, the Rufino/Prietos’ liabilities through their firm Sunvar Realty and Development Corp. would be this P1.8 billion, plus the P1.5 billion alleged tax evasion by another firm they own, Dunkin’ Donuts. That would total nearly P3 billion, putting them in the league of Chinese-Filipino tycoons notorious for being tax evaders,” Tiglao said.
“No wonder President Duterte himself angrily said in a recent speech that he will investigate the case, which was reported to him as having been a ‘sweetheart deal’ when it was leased by a state firm to the Rufino/Prietos’ firm Sunvar Realty Development Corp,” he added.
Tiglao said the property “was originally leased to the Prieto firm in 1980 and 1983, allegedly at a scandalously low rental by the Technology Resource Center Foundation, controlled at the time by Imelda Marcos. The lease expired in 2002, although the Prietos continued to control the property as if nothing happened, and refused to vacate it.”
The Prietos also own Golden Donuts Inc., the exclusive Philippine franchisee of the international brand Dunkin’ Donuts.
Duterte earlier said the donut business of the Prietos also did not pay proper taxes.
The President also threatened to block the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN for alleged “swindling.”
He claimed that the network did not show his political ads during the 2016 campaign period although his team had paid for the air time.
“[The franchise] has been there for 25 years. The law said it’s okay, only if you adhere to journalistic standards. What did you do to us? Estafa, swindling, not only me but Chiz Escudero, many of us. Son of a bitch, you collected outright then you commit estafa,” Duterte said.
“So I will file a complaint. Congress, no need to renew it. But to operate is something else, so I will point this out, your garbage, then we’ll see,” he added.
Asked if he would “block” the franchise of ABS-CBN, which expires in 2020, Duterte said, “Yes, if you’re engaged in swindling.”
House Bill 4349, which seeks to renew the franchise granted to ABS-CBN for 25 years, is still at the committee level.