Friday, February 12, 2016

Ombudsman dismisses QC treasurer over MSBFI property tax case

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MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman on Friday ordered the dismissal from the service of Edgar Villanueva, officer in charge of the Quezon City Treasury Office, for abuse of authority in enforcing the collection of property tax without notice of assessment.

According to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the dismissal of Villanueva was prompted by an investigation into the imposition and assessment of real property taxes against the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, Inc. (MSBFI) in 2011.

Villanueva was also perpetually disqualified from holding public office with cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits. In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year.

"In May 2011, Villanueva issued a Statement of Delinquency against MSBFI for unpaid real property tax liabilities totaling P42.8 million. One month later in June 2011, the Final Notice of Delinquency and Warrant of Levy were issued. In July 2012, MSBFI was directed to immediately vacate the premises. Its premises and gates were padlocked by Quezon City officials," Morales said.

MSBFI explained in its complaint that the property is owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and that it received no Notice of Assessment for the tax liability.

"In enforcing the collection of taxes against MSBFI without the required notice of assessment, Villanueva denied MSBFI its right to due process, which consists [of] the opportunity to avail of the remedy provided under the [Local Government Code]," Morales pointed out.

"Absent such prior notice of assessment, the Warrant of Levy issued to MSBFI and the succeeding auction sale conducted by the City Treasurer had no legal mooring," she added.

Morales found Villanueva committed grave abuse of authority in the discharge of his official duties when he enforced taxes without prior notice of assessment.

She added that "any injury sustained by MSBFI as an offshoot of the flawed tax enforcement would be undue and unwarranted for lack of legal basis on the part of the City Treasurer to demand payment."

"Even assuming that MSBFI is liable for real property taxes, the [Office of the City Treasurer] may not validly levy and sell the property since it is owned by a government entity [NHA] exempt from taxes," she said.

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