The NBI catch

WHEN the new National Bureau of Investigation agent-in-charge in Bacolod, Renoir Baldovino assumed office at the start of this month, he said that he would concentrate on anti-graft and corruption cases. His pronouncement received the usual “ho-hum”, “here we go again” reaction.

This attitude is perhaps due to the belief that the work of the NBI is more on such grizzly and heinous crimes as murder, rape and robbery, whole scale estafa, kidnapping and gangsterism. Indeed, graft and corruption is understood to be the domain of the Ombudsman.

Then he burst into the news, this time not in a bottom page but at the headline because of the entrapment operation that hooked an alleged BIR revenue officer. The news had the trappings of a movie – a revenue agent allegedly receiving extorted money from an NBI operative. The BIR officer was arrested right there and then.

The woman has been charged and is out in bail. We don’t know what action the BIR on its own will take against her although it would help burnish the BIR image if it informs the public what it will do. After all she’s their employee.

Just three days earlier, a friend lamented with the same circumstances as this alleged extortion case by a BIR officer. I suggested that he should go and report to the NBI because of the promise of Baldovino to ferret out grafters in government. I thought that we should give the NBI a chance to make good its promise.

My distraught friend said he could not because he would be marked by the BIR; the “front” bureau personnel is not alone. He insinuates a ring within the BIR that insures that their operation is not limited to only one. There is, my friend said, a teamwork, if that is a good word.

From his lamentations, it seems that the BIR crooked operative is only a front and the tentacles go up higher. At one time he also told a fellow businessman about his predicament and received this advice – just agree on the BIR proposal and save yourself.

But like all sorts of extortion, the evil does not go away. It only multiplies and makes the victims suffer more with bigger demands.

Last Saturday another Bacolod businessman who asked not to be identified because he fears retaliation, repeated almost the same scenario of extortion by some crooked BIR employees. He added more and this involves agents of BIR employees.

He said these operators are easy to detect because they are daily personalities in the BIR office. Some even mislead businessmen or their representatives because these operators oftentimes man the desks and tables of the BIR employees and entertain the public.

We can take these allegations as untrue but this businessman has no reason to approach me and tell his experience in the BIR. For what except perhaps he wants to unload his misery?

As he was seated far from our table, he can be relied upon because he came to me four times to tell this story and more. I asked for names but he declined. Indeed we are concerned with the immoral act rather than the immoral actor. We leave the actor to the NBI and to the internal watchdog of the BIR.

From two businessmen came the scenario of extortion that is similar to the NBI catch. The modus operandi follows this path: a businessman is “assessed” with a very high tax. If he complained, the businessman is given an option, called a compromise, then negotiations take place until the businessman agrees to an accommodation, a 3-way sharing.

The government is paid one third which is receipted. The crooked BIR personnel takes the other third and the businessman saves the rest. Sometimes the sharing takes a different form but the final agreement is that the government takes the smallest of the pie.

That the BIR issued a receipt means that the amount is the actual payable to the government. The extrapolation of alleged assessment is apparently for extortion.

One chain store owner told me last Monday that when he asked for further reduction, he was referred to the Manila BIR office where the top man agreed to a compromise but referred him back to Bacolod for the “final” assessment.

We commend Baldovino and the courageous Genevieve Buenaflor with the hope that the BIR clean up because we must protect the honest BIR employees.

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