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People: Dick Du-Baladad

Balancing ideals and business demands

When it comes to the cause she is fighting for, Benedicta Du-Baladad is the first to admit it isn’t an easy one. As the 2005 president of the Tax Management Association of the Philippines (TMAP), Du-Baladad aimed for a balance between the ideals of taxation and the demands of business. Doing so amidst a fiscal crisis and a broiling debate over controversial tax reform measures, the tax lawyer could not have picked a bigger battle to lead.

Du-Baladad took over the helm of TMAP back when the value added tax (VAT) rate hike was still making its rounds in Senate halls, waiting for passage into law. Early on, she established TMAP’s stand on the issue: “We acknowledged the government’s appeal for an immediate increase in revenues, but we also pushed for a limit to the duration of the increases, in anticipation of a time when the country won’t be in such a bind.”

Recognized by government regulatory bodies as the bona fide representative of taxpayers in formulating and implementing tax reforms, TMAP made sure its voice was heard above the din caused by the government’s call for tax reforms and the public’s resistance to it.

The association presented critical position papers on various tax-related matters – including the Reformed VAT – to Congress, the Senate, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and other concerned sectors of the government. And the efforts made more than a dent: on more than one occasion, government bodies, including the BIR, acceded to and advocated TMAP’s position, which has always been tempered by a keen understanding of the government-taxpayer relationship.

“Filipinos have to adjust their perspective and realize the importance of complying with our tax obligations. In turn, the government has to make sure that tax laws are fair, clear and properly implemented,” says Du-Baladad.

The sentiment is a reflection of where she’s coming from. Before moving to the private sector as a tax advisory and compliance partner for leading accounting firm Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A), Du-Baladad, a CPA lawyer, was head revenue executive for legal service at the BIR for 17 years, gaining experience in international tax planning and tax administration. This experience working on both sides of the fence influenced Du-Baladad’s leadership style and further lent credence to TMAP’s reputation as liaison between the government and taxpayers.

To cap off her term as president, Du-Baladad had the rare privilege of leading the association as it hosted the Asia-Oceania Tax Consultants Association (AOTCA) Conference for only the second time in 23 years. In November last year, over 180 foreign delegates from 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region attended the general meeting, which aimed to promote mutual cooperation among tax consultants in the region, and provide a forum for exchanges of information.

Department of Finance secretary Margarito Teves and Confederation Fiscale Européenne president Cor Visser were just some of the many speakers who shared insights on pertinent issues, such as the Asia-Pacific economic outlook and ways of managing a nation’s fiscal environment. By keeping its finger on the pulse of the latest tax developments, TMAP had prepared well for the conference, which turned out to be a huge success. AOTCA president Kinijiro Mori even recognized the association for the precedent it set as a host.

When Du-Baladad accepted her post as TMAP president, she made a three-pronged commitment to address the needs of the organization, to heed the call for reform and advocacy, and to strengthen international relat ions. After only a year-long tenure, there is no doubt that she has delivered on all her promises.

“There were many challenges along the way,” admits Du-Baladad. “But we always kept our eye on the ball. We wanted to elevate TMAP as a well-respected, internationally recognized professional organization and a visible partner in shaping the future of the Philippines. I’m confident that we’ve done just that.”

Du-Baladad is the current Division Head of Tax Advisory & Compliance at P&A.

(Also published in the Philippine Star, May 16, 2006)