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BIR chief Dulay files libel, cyber-libel cases vs. Mon Tulfo, Manila Times

MANILA, Philippines — Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar Dulay, the country’s chief taxman, on Thursday filed libel and cyber-libel complaints against The Manila Times and its columnist Ramon “Mon” Tulfo for a series of columns published this month.

In a statement, Dulay said Tulfo had “false, reckless, and defamatory” allegations that maligned not only the BIR chief but also the country’s biggest tax-collection agency as a whole.

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Besides Tulfo, the complaints for three counts of libel and seven counts of cyber-libel lodged before the Quezon City Prosecutors Office also included as co-accused Manila Times president and chief executive Dante Francis Ang II, and editors Rene Bas, Blanca Mercado, Nerilyn Tenorio, Leena Chua, Arnold Belleza, and Lynette Luna.

Dulay said he had sought P20 million in moral damages, which “will be donated to L’Arche (Ang Arko ng Pilipinas Inc.), a community dedicated to taking care of mentally handicapped children.”

“The Tulfo column ‘My Line of Sight: Conversations between two BIR execs reveals all,’ contains malicious, sweeping and unfounded accusations to the effect that under my stewardship as BIR Commissioner, there was rampant corruption and I have allegedly ‘skeletons in the closet at the graft-ridden agency’,” Dulay explained.

Since the three column pieces written by Tulfo were published not only in the newspaper but also in Manila Times’ online version and its social media accounts like Facebook, Dulay filed a cyber-libel complaint.

According to Dulay, Tulfo’s articles were “undoubtedly false and defamatory” as they “not only directly pictured me as a corrupt official, an animal, a thief, minion of Satan, greedy bastard, but also maliciously portrayed me as a ‘criminal’ to the effect that I made billions of pesos in connection with the transactions of Mighty Cigarettes Corp. and Del Monte Foods Corp.”

Tulfo’s second column that came out last August 8 “alleged that there was a giving of bribe of multibillion peso tax cases with delinquent corporations and had pictured [me] as an ‘insatiable greedy extortionist, a cheat and a corrupt official in (President) Digong’s government’,” Dulay said.

As for the latest column that attacked Dulay dated August 20, the BIR chief noted that Tulfo “called for a corruption probe against [me] regarding Del Monte’s ‘compromised’ payment of P65 million instead of the ‘huge’ delinquent tax amounting to P8.7 billion.”

“Clearly, Tulfo did not ascertain the truth of his facts. In truth, the Del Monte case never reached the CTA [Court of Tax Appeals] and, as I emphasize, there was no compromise. The collection was based on a series of assessments based on Revenue Procedures and delegated authority. These assessments were based on documents submitted as part of the revenue procedures. Thus, we cannot just make up a collection amount without evidence to support it,” according to Dulay.

“The way Tulfo presented the article, specifically mentioning the Del Monte and Mighty cases, and on his own, made an explanation of the conversations in the video recording. Then he made false interpretations of the conversations, passing it on as a fact and made it seem as the truth to the readers. He made it seem that I made billions of pesos out of such transactions. He deliberately and falsely made his own interpretation and made it look like I extorted money out of it,” the BIR chief added.

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In his complaint, Dulay said that “the aforementioned defamatory imputation has caused me enormous physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation.”

Also, Dulay said the columns were “maliciously posted on the internet, specifically on [Tulfo’s] social media Facebook account, an alleged illegal video conversation recording as the source of his published article, added with his malicious commentaries.”

The publication of the same columns that saw print on Manila Times’ website was likewise “certainly indicative of malice in fact on the part of not only Tulfo, but equally his editors and his publisher,” Dulay said.

“Such publication of Tulfo, his editors and his publisher is manifestly and patently malicious with the only intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm upon my person. They have all the intention to cause my dishonor, discredit, contempt and besmirched reputation before my friends, my peers, subordinates, not just the entire Filipino nation, and above all, with the easy access of internet, the whole world,” Dulay’s complaint read.

Dulay claimed he “received frantic calls from families and friends within and outside the Philippines, as well as from his own children and extended family, telling him that the video conversation recording had gone viral or gone public in the world wide web,” lamenting that the articles “showed [me] in the worst possible light.”

“I felt betrayed and overwhelmed and the impact was harsh. It has caused me countless sleepless nights and real fear for my family and myself, given the level of insults I received,” Dulay said.

As such, Dulay also sought from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) a precautionary hold departure order, which was filed alongside the complaints.

“Tulfo is a flight risk. He comes from a family of influence within and outside the country, and with high social and financial standing. He is often scheduled to leave the country. With this and other numerous complaints against Tulfo and with the existence of a very strong criminal case against him, there is a high probability that he may go out of the country again anytime soon to evade prosecution and arrest for his crimes,” the BIR chief explained.

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