Without batting an eye lash, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas has admitted his friendship with a billionaire miner, who had been investigated for illegal mining operation involving P28 billion worth of nickel ore.
Roxas’ friend Eric Gutierrez is also reported to have squeezed at least P18 million in questionable tax exemptions on jet planes.
He is my friend, what’s wrong with that, said Roxas as Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte revealed that the billionaire miner and his business partner, Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice, are bankrolling the campaign of Roxas.
Duterte blasted Roxas after the LP standard bearer boasted in his TV advertisement that he is not tainted with corruption.
Duterte, running under the banner of the PDP-Laban, has vowed to eradicate corruption in government if elected President.
Roxas, who campaigns on a good governance platform, admitted he uses in his campaign sorties jet planes owned by Gutierrez.
JET FLEET. A Cessna, one of 8 jets owned by Gutierrez at the disposal of Mar Roxas and his Liberal Party senatorial line-up for their provincial campaigns.
Duterte said he personally saw Roxas taking Gutierrez’s jets in Davao City. “If that is not corruption, then what do you call that?”
Gutierrez is said to be known in the aviation circle as the owner of Air Juan Aviation Inc., which has 8 jets under the disposal of Roxas for use in his campaign.
Gutierrez and Erice, spokesman of President Benigno Aquino’s Liberal Party, are also known to be part owners of SR Metals Inc. (SRMI), and its subsidiaries San R Mining Co. and Galeo Equipment and Mining Co.
Engaged in nickel mining in Tubay, Agusan del Norte, the three firms masqueraded as owned by small-scale miners.
Small-scale mining uses only shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows.
Upon investigation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the companies turned out to be operated by big capitalists from Manila and employed heavy equipment and barges.
Under the law, small-scale nickel mining is limited to extracting only 50,000 tons of ore per year.
The DENR investigation showed that in 2006 to 2007 the mining companies owned by Gutierrez and Erice reportedly over-extracted more than 1.8 million tons of ore valued at P28 billion.
The DENR slapped a fine of P7 million for the environmental plunder and ordered the closure of the mining operations in 2007.
Erice, as then chairman of the SMRI, contested the closure before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but lost in June 2014.
The closure order has not been implemented and the mining companies continue to operate.
Duterte said Roxas has been protecting the business interests of SRMI. “It is because of this protection that the mining operations of Gutierrez continue.”
Aside from environmental plunder, there may be a case of treason committed by Gutierrez and Erice.
The mined ore was shipped to China, but shiploads of it were rejected due to poor quality.
Intelligence reports have it that the bad ore were used in China’s hasty reclamation of reefs for airstrips in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which is claimed by the Philippines.
While Roxas said he was paying for use of the jets, the friendship between Gutierrez and the former interior secretary and former transport secretary of Aquino, is reported to have earned questionable tax bonanzas for Juan Air Aviation Inc., known in the aviation industry as owned by Gutierrez.
Jets are subject to 12-percent VAT and one-percent import duty. But the Aquino government has exempted at least two of the eight aircrafts at Roxas’ disposal.
Reportedly, a Cessna Caravan jet imported by Air Juan valued at $2,335,275, was granted exemption from the 12-percent Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2012. The exemption was worth $280,233, or P14,011,650.
Gutierrez and Erice are reported to have bankrolled not only Roxas’ 2010 vice presidential run but also Aquino’s presidential bid. A Citation Mustang of Gutierrez and Erice was used by Aquino and Roxas in the campaign.
A Gutierrez company, Galeo, also had been given VAT exemption for lease of the Citation Mustang jet.
The lease with aircraft owner Boom Line Investment Ltd., based in the British Virgin islands, was for $30,000 a month for 24 months starting Dec. 1, 2009, totaling $720,000. The foregone 12-percent VAT amounted to $86,400, or P4,320,000.