BDO defends request to DOJ over tax cases in Cebu

MANILA, Philippines – BDO Unibank Incorporated, the Philippines' largest lender, denied allegations by Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña that it bribed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

Osmeña had accused Aguirre of interfering in the tax cases filed by the Cebu City government against BDO.

"With regard to the cases filed by the Cebu City government against BDO and its 85 directors and senior officers in Cebu City, the bank only exercised its legal right to an impartial and fair investigation by requesting the Department of Justice (DOJ) to designate an acting prosecutor to hear said cases," the listed lender said in a statement on Wednesday, March 21.

BDO added that under the law, the DOJ has the authority to act on such a request.

The bank was reacting to news reports that Osmeña threatened to file a disbarment case and graft complaint against Aguirre. This comes after the DOJ dismissed the Cebu City government's tax cases against BDO.

Back in 2017, Osmeña publicly condemned BDO for allegedly not paying the correct taxes to the city government. According to the mayor, a branch pays only P6 a day.

BDO had said then that it was the city government which refused to accept payments for local taxes and fees, and issue permits.

"While the cases involved a local issue, BDO would like to emphasize that it has been consistently compliant with relevant laws and regulations both on local and national levels," said the bank, owned by the conglomerate of the Philippines' richest man, Henry Sy Sr.

Aguirre threatened a countersuit against Osmeña over the controversy.

"The problem with Mayor Osmeña is that he always says, 'I'm sure Secretary Aguirre accepted money.' Where is his evidence? I will be the one to file a complaint against him," Aguirre said in Filipino.

BDO has one of the largest distribution networks, with more than 1,000 branches and over 3,000 automated teller machines nationwide. – with a report from Lian Buan / Rappler.com