PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte vowed to remove tax exemptions for businessmen who used their connections to build a fortune at the expense of the government and the environment.
“These elitists living off the fat of the land, they’re doing nothing but transacting online,” Duterte said in Filipino during a gathering of his San Beda College of Law classmates at the Palace Sunday night.
“Corruption will stop and I will take away their tax-exempt privileges. They will all pay,” he said.
During the campaign, Duterte accused his rival, administration bet Manuel Roxas II of being supported by billionaire businessman Eric Gutierrez, CEO of SR Metals Inc., a mining firm that was the subject of a Senate investigation for the allegedly illegal shipment of nickel ore amounting to P28 billion. Gutierrez has been accused of using his connections to get tax exemptions for his businesses.
The company was fined P7 million in 2007 but managed to continue operating in the Agusan mines when it elevated its case to the Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court, where they lost.
But Duterte said the company continued to operate despite a Supreme Court order that it stop operations.
Duterte said he would also go after logging companies that fail to live up to their commitment to rehabilitate the areas they exploit.
“You’re supposed to plant trees. Now if I don’t see those trees, I’ll cancel your paper,” Duterte said. “Let us all follow the law and not try to bend it,” he said.
The President also vowed to look into the intelligence and discretionary funds of mayors and local chief executives to get rid of a source of corruption.