3 Cebu BIR execs sacked for extortion

By Jhunnex Napallacan
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 04:44pm (Mla time) 07/18/2007

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Ombudsman has dismissed three Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials in Cebu for extorting money from a Bohol-based businesswoman two years ago.


Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez, in an order released Tuesday, ordered the dismissal of Bonifacio D. Ybañez, division chief; Edgar D. Palgan, revenue officer 1; and Francis V. Mercado, intelligence officer.


All three were assigned to the special investigation division of the BIR’s Revenue Region 13 when the case was filed against them in 2005 by Leonila Montero, owner of Alona Beach Resort in Panglao, Bohol.


Montero claimed the BIR officials demanded P60,000 to settle her alleged understatement of income from January to March 2005.


The Ombudsman noted that the acts committed by Ybañez, Mercado and Palgan “appear to have been motivated by bad faith and corruption, and, thus, constitute grave misconduct.”


But of the three BIR officials, only Ybañez still works for the bureau, said Jason Rodriguez, assistant chief of the revenue district’s human resource management unit (HRMU).


Mercado availed of optional retirement on December 31, 2006 while Palgan died early this year due to an undisclosed cause, Rodriguez said.


Ybañez was transferred to the district’s legal division after he was linked to the extortion scheme, he added.


He, has not reported for work since Tuesday, according to a BIR employee who asked not to be named.


Montero, in her complaint, claimed Palgan called her through her cellphone on May 9, 2005 asking her to go to the BIR regional office in Cebu City to discuss the findings of a surveillance assessment conducted on her resort.


When she arrived at the BIR-Cebu office, Montero said she met Mercado and Ybañez who discussed with her the “rules and policies on tax collection.”


She said she later had another meeting with Palgan and Mercado in a Cebu shopping mall where the two presented a written finding on her alleged understatement of income from January to March 2005 amounting to P200,970.61.


After several more meetings, Montero claimed Mercado gave her his calling card with his bank account number where she was told to deposit the P60,000 they asked from her.


But Montero instead asked the help of the chief of police in Panglao who initiated an entrapment operation on August 2, 2005 in Cebu City, where Palgan and Ybañez were caught receiving marked money from Montero.


The Ombudsman ruled that Palgan and Mercado had no authority to conduct an investigation and surveillance operation on Montero’s resort.


While Ybañez was not originally part of the questionable transaction, the Ombudsman said his involvement and interest were manifested when he met with Montero at the BIR office regarding the surveillance assessment.


The ruling said Ybañez was fully aware that the case was not sanctioned by the agency and was only a personal operation of Palgan and Mercado, using their office and positions.


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