Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao (right) listens while one of his lawyers, Abraham Espejo (left), speaks during a press conference in Manila on March 26.

MANILA — Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. advised world boxing icon and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao to quietly settle his tax disputes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) instead of raising an outcry in public.

Belmonte suggested that Pacquiao just face the issue by addressing the concerns of the BIR with the help of his own accountants and lawyers.

“Congressman Pacquiao should talk to BIR, preferably with his accountant. That’s the better way to settle the issue,” the House leader said.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said Pacquiao’s allegations that he was being harassed by the BIR were “unsubstantiated and unfounded.”

“There no basis to cry harassment,” Gonzales said, adding, “to further connect it to the impeachment is hitting below the belt.”

Pacquiao said the alleged harassment against him started when he refused to sign the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

As this developed, Pacquiao’s close friend, YACAP party-list Rep. Carol Jane Lopez, said the lawmaker would not be affected by his tax woes in his scheduled fight with the unbeaten Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on June 9.

Pacquiao earlier complained that he lost product endorsements abroad because he was portrayed as a tax evader, a charge he strongly denies.


San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, on the other hand, took up the cudgels for Pacquiao, saying the BIR should go slow on his colleague, who is preparing for an upcoming fight in the United States.

He said the bureau was being “insensitive” to Pacquiao and that its tax probe was a “distraction” to the boxing champion.

“BIR’s duty (to collect taxes) is given; Manny is not taking that personally. What only bothers him is how his case is being handled. Because BIR officials coming out to speak to the media is apparently becoming an attack on his personality rather than what they say it is a fulfillment of duty,” he said.

“For example, in news reports, some government officials may not be blatantly labeling Pacman as a tax evader. But if you read between the lines, it’s all the same,” he added.

“And given Pacquiao’s rock star status, the media picks up almost every news item that relates with the boxing champ so easily,” Ejercito said.

He said it is unfortunate that news of the BIR’s tax investigation came out at a time when the Sarangani congressman was preparing for a fight.

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