BIR job goes to Hefti

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FINANCE Secretary Margarito Teves yesterday said he supported the appointment of Lilian Hefti as officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and denied recommending an outsider for the job.

“Lilian has vast experience and I want to give her a chance,” Teves said, even as he denied reports that he had tapped Quezon City Treasurer Victor Endriga to replace Jose Mario Buñag, who was asked to resign over collection shortfalls in the first quarter.

In a statement, Teves also denied Buñag’s accusations that his policy of encouraging large taxpayers to pay their liabilities in 2006 reduced collections in the first quarter of 2007.

In his statement, Teves said the bureau should have posted a P200-million increase in collections in the first quarter, based on actual economic indicators.

Given this shortfall, a shakeup was necessary, he added.

“It is time to act now to stem the bleeding,” Teves said. “BIR’s first quarter shortfall amounted to P10 billion. In the first two months of the second quarter, it was already short by almost P16 billion. As much as we realize how painful a revamp is, there is nothing personal in the process. We have no choice but to undertake what needs to be immediately done, because we need to have the resources to deliver vital infrastructure and social services to the Filipino people.”

In a separate interview, Teves’ public relations consultant, Rey David, said the finance secretary had no intention of backing somebody outside the bureau as the next revenue commissioner because that would send the wrong signal and demoralize career employees.

Teves said that Hefti, a career officer with 29 years of service in the bureau, would be given a chance to prove herself before she would be considered for promotion to full-fledged commissioner.

Buñag himself served as acting bureau chief before he was appointed permanent commissioner.

In Congress, lawmakers challenged Negros Oriental Rep. Herminio Teves to identify those he accused of extorting money in exchange for confirming his son, the finance secretary.

“There are 12 congressmen in the [Commission on Appointments] and Representative Teves’ statement has tarnished all their reputations. He must be fair to his colleagues in the House and be specific in his charges,” Majority Leader Prospero Nograles said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson yesterday supported Teves’ statement that there was wheeling and dealing and even payoffs for confirmations, but said senators were not involved.

“That’s an open secret. They’re really haggling, wheeling and dealing during confirmation proceedings,” Lacson said.

At least two Cabinet members yesterday also confirmed the allegations of back-room deals involving concessions and lobby money in exchange for the confirmation of presidential appointees.

A top official on condition of anonymity said unscrupulous congressmen received P300 million in lobby money from big companies to block his confirmation by the Commission on Appointments because they opposed his policies.