Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Filipino Conscience

The Philippine Daily Inquirer lauded it as “one inspiring story” and I fully acquiesced to this observation. Three Filipino seamen---namely Jonathan Sanchez, Jimmy Piamonte, and Florencio Tolentino---and another ship worker were rewarded yesterday for having had their hearts and mind in the proper places at just about the time they are needed most.

Read the Entire Story.

The United States government rewarded sizable amount of money to the persons mentioned above for having “squealed” on their ship’s unscrupulous act of dumping waste material into the Pacific Ocean. Their testimony was apparently crucial to the victorious prosecution of their former employer for violating U.S. and international environmental laws. A U.S court fined the DST Shipping Company a million dollars for the malice they have done to our oceans and also, the ship captain and some other officers were left with no other option but to plead guilty for their indiscretions.

Each “whistle blower” got four million pesos except for the ship cook who only got a third of the amount for his additional testimony on the case mentioned above. According to Joseph Mussomeli, the U.S. charge d' affaires here in the Philippines, the reward given were sufficient enough to stifle the consequential difficulties of the said seamen to seek re-employment especially in the same industry. Their “turning against their boss” might just be a stigma that would be stuck with them tightly from now on and no ship owner, especially those with malevolent schemes similar to their former employer, would be wont to take them in as ship workers. No matter, their brave and courageous acts could just be their badges of honor that could overcome any difficulties that they may encounter in their future pursuits. They may enter instead other industries and I am pretty certain that their marked credibility is just but the exact virtues that some of our employers are looking for. Or they may enter the government service for surely their honesty is a welcome respite to an organization full of snakes and thieves.

What Jonathan Sanchez, Jimmy Piamonte, and Florencio Tolentino accomplished is a reflection of how we can still rely on “the Filipino conscience”, where we could still believe that in these days of desperation, we Filipinos could still be seen as a people not only industrious and hardworking but also honest and forthright. For this alone the three Filipinos should be deemed heroes to our nation and purveyors of the “The Filipino Conscience”.

What I see also is a case study for possible legislation in our shores. You see, we must adopt and incorporate the good things that have been brought about by this “whistle-blowing” where an insidious act was brought to the attention of the authorities by entities close or connected with the malicious act. We can surely use a “Whistle Blowers Act” where we can apportion sufficient amount of money as rewards to persons who are willing to come out in the open and expose the malpractices that have been done in the government, according to their first-hand knowledge. With this reward system, many may just be prodded to “squeal” on their bosses’ or co-workers for their thieveries and excessiveness. In this manner, the fight against graft and corruption in our government may find some success albeit just fairly.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What's Your Kinda E-VAT?

The new E-VAT scheme has finally slithered through the Congress amidst a dramatic battle of the filibusters, complete with a walkout and heated exchange of spiteful words that for once there, you’d think we are watching the Taiwanese parliament, where fisticuffs among lawmakers are but a daily thing. So what version got through? Reports declared that the bicameral version was the one that got away, meaning to say, the E-VAT rate will remain at 10% but the taxable subjects---goods, services and what-nots---would expand significantly to include new items such as electricity and petroleum products. You’d think that the passed EVAT law is the less evil version among all versions but I think it is still the same animal clothed in lamb’s skin; it would still be a bringer of additional burden and would still propel the usual hardships any tax legislation often brings. Don’t be misled. Nobody should look and feel heroes here by false impressions.

Minority Floor Leader Congressman Escudero bowed to disembowel the newly passed EVAT Law by hurling it all the way to the Supreme Court with complaints that it did not fulfill the constitutional requirements of “proper emanation” . You see, all tax laws must be initiated by the Lower House and Escudero contended that the passed version was one that was engineered and designed by the Senate alone---which I think is completely false. The “emanation” requirements should have already been fulfilled since any tax law should only be started and begun in the Lower House and nothing prohibits the Senate or any bicameral committee to filibuster upon it and tinker with it, just like in any other bills. His Supreme Court gambit may not work this time.

Congressman Escudero should instead question the new EVAT Law clause that reportedly allows President Macapagal-Arroyo to increase the rate to 12% without any Congressional approval. Now, this one is really for the books and entirely queer and unprecedented. In Taxation Laws, there is what we know as allowed prerogative by the president to increase and decrease tariff rates, a sort of an emergency power, where the President of the land would be allowed to take necessary measures, in the form of timely adjustments in tariff rates of certain imports, without the usual lengthy and tedious proceeding of lawmaking. And so, in some particular instances, the President could allow tax exemptions of certain imports of a big investor as an incentive without asking prior acquiescence from our lawmakers. Or in some instance, the president could anytime adjust the tariff rates of certain products anytime he or she desires, in response to the global international situation. Before GATT and WTO, countries tend to protect their markets by imposing high entry tariff rates without warning or hints. When these things happened before, our country could retaliate immediately by giving the President “emergency taxation powers” by also increasing the tariffs rates of products coming from “hostile” merchandising countries, without any delay. So this is really the cause or justification why in some manner, the President before was allowed to tinker and adjust tariff rates in order to respond to emergency situations or urgent necessity to accommodate huge investors. This is the “one exception” and the single instance where the taxation is not in the hands of Congress, a sort of an anomaly to the rule on delegation of taxing powers, which should only be exercised by Congress.

But now, by some queer circumstance, the President is allowed to increase the EVAT rate without Congressional permission. This is clearly not sound and in violation of our fundamental precepts on separation of powers and constitutional mandate. The taxing power should not in any way be in the hands of the Executive Branch of our government for this may give rise to abuse, oppressiveness and callousness.

The debacle on the EVAT Law may not die down soon and may drag towards a long and winding road, and into the august halls of the Supreme Court.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A Minor Soliloquy

It has been a while since I last posted an entry on Where Now Is The Citizen On Mars? and being such a inexhaustible blogger that I have been in the past months, I wasn’t used to these kind of laidback situation. But I have to get used to these infrequencies at least for now and hope that I can get everything ironed out in the coming days and my normal blogging days may soon be back. And so then, don’t get me wrong. I ain’t quitting finally. I am just slowing down due to some busy schedules with my other life’s concerns.

And so what had happened in the past two weeks…Maybe a lot, maybe not as much. Yesterday, the momentous First Blogging Summit was all over the TV and I had goosebumps thinking that my fellow bloggers are actually taking one giant step forward with this event and as I saw it on a number of TV footages, the event was undeniably a grand success. Way too go then and kudos to those who have organized it; the way it was presented, you could feel that seasoned individuals were behind it. I saw JJ Disini and Yugatech speaking in front of TV camera and they were as eloquent as they were in their blog spaces.

Mother’s Day came yesterday and so I had to greet all the mothers in the world including my mother, Darwisa Masdal, one who has been as nurturing as any mother on earth could be and I couldn’t ask for more. Someday, my daughter Evette Darwisa may be a mother herself, and my only daughter among a brood of four, would surely be as nurturing as her grandma, or as her mom, Evelyn who aside from being the best mother for my kids, has also been such a great wall for me as a wife. I would like also to greet Teacher Sol for this occasion and I know, how lovely a mother she is and how her kids deserved her like the world. And then Bambit, Sam’s other half—I greet her also. Shalimar, the Filipina blogger from Europe may not still be a mother herself but I know she’ll be a fine one day.

In the political front, there were a lot of noises about jueteng, that numbers game that Filipinos seem to have a long and ardous love affair with. Like Romeo and Juliet, jueteng is one thing that says, “..till death”. Shall we legalize it? Many have been asking this question now that we are embroiled again in this debate that had already brought down one administration. Will it bring down GMA also? It remains to be seen.

If it were up to me, jueteng should be legalized in order that money that has been going to gambling lords, which run in the billions, would be partaken instead by the government. Imagine if these billions of pesos would be added to our treasuries, our fiscal deficit problems would be a thing of the past. Well, I know gambling is never such a virtuous deed and I do not encourage it and I do not practice it also. But jueteng poses a queer problem where in order to lick it we have to ride on with it first. There is just no way for us now to eradicate this menace and all we could do is to regulate it first. In that manner, regulation can tone down the abuses and excessiveness of this old town habit and at the same time, like hitting two birds with a stone, our treasury will get a little fatter. This numbers game is such a legend that many things have emanated from it. I believe that no President has been immune from it. I mean, every President may benefit from it whether they like it or not. It is not only Erap that fell into this trap. The money is there for the taking and it’s hard to turn down, a kind of a Godfather proposition, “It is an offer you could not refuse”. I bet presidential candidates have been spending such huge amount of money in past elections thinking that jueteng will be there to save their day when finally they take their seat. For this reason alone, jueteng should be in the hands of the government in order that only individuals without grand monetary schemes would run for the highest position.