Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, February 24, 2008

De Venecia no coddler, says lawyer

Pangasinan Rep. Jose De Venecia on Saturday denied allegations by an administration official that he had intervened for an alleged oil smuggler when he was Speaker.

De Venecia’s lawyer, Raul Lambino, said it was “unfair” of the administration to accuse Oilink, the company owned by Paul Co, of smuggling, and then link it to De Venecia.

“This is another malicious accusation that is part of a continuing attack on the person of former Speaker De Venecia,” Lambino said.

Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr., head of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, told a press conference the other day that De Venecia had interceded for Co, a suspected smuggler, to help the latter evade payment of some P4 billion in taxes in 2007.

Lambino said Villar must have been ordered to link De Venecia to oil smuggling.

“They are scraping the bottom of the barrel. I don’t believe that [Villar] could issue such a statement without the Palace ordering him so,” he said.

Lambino released a copy of a one-page letter written to De Venecia by Co in which the Oilink chair had complained that his company’s oil storage and supply operations in Mariveles, Bataan, “might have been mistaken for the tax-free operations in Subic of other oil companies.”

In the letter, Co said his firm “pays taxes even before [the] entrance of oil” to its oil storage facility in Mariveles.

Co said he had informed President Macapagal-Arroyo that Oilink had paid P27 million in taxes “under protest” as of Aug. 10, 2007, so that his oil firm could immediately resume operations.

The tax payment was 270 percent more the alleged tax deficiency being claimed by the Bureau of Customs, Co said.

“We do not wish to be involved in illegal operations,” Co said in his letter.

He asked De Venecia to help Oilink “establish the truth” because of harassment by the PASG and the shutdown of the company’s operations for two weeks.

Lambino said Co was also close to people in Malacañang.

“We understand that Mr. Paul Co and his son-in-law’s family are close friends of the Palace. It is most unfair to [say] that their company is into oil smuggling and then insinuate that it was the former Speaker who had intervened for Oilink,” Lambino said. By Norman Bordadora - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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