Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Power to Tax and Taxing Power

Citing Municipal Tax Ordinance No. 743 series of 2007, Mayor Jose T. Villarosa issued a letter addressed to OMECO Manager Alfred A. Dantis informing the latter about the cooperative’s “unpaid tax obligation to the local government of San Jose since 2003.” The letter further stated that billing statements for alleged accounts were already sent by the Municipal Treasurer’s Office but, “not a single centavo has been paid.”

Aside from Municipal Ordinance No. 743, the letter further states that there is a Supreme Court ruling that, “supports and demands for entities like OMECO to pay local taxes” but failed to give basic information on the aforementioned SCRA.

Last August 18, 2010, Dantis responded to Villarosa through a letter signifying the intention of OMECO to comply with Municipal Ordinance No. 743 as long as the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) would allow the cooperative to utilize a payment scheme that would take into consideration OMECO’s present financial status and condition.

It was former Mayor Romulo Festin, Sr. who signed billing statements demanding for the payment which was prepared by the municipal treasurer. OMECO then was headed by its erstwhile General Manager Alex Labrador. Labrador, a known ally of the present mayor, now works with the Municipal Engineering Office of San Jose as consultant. When Labrador resigned at OMECO, the cooperative was believed to be already at the verge of bankruptcy. And the latest National Electrification Administration (NEA)audit findings can attest to this.

If this tax measure will be implemented, the burden would fall on our shoulders, the ordinary member-consumers. It is clear in the letter of Dantis that said tax imposition, “have to be recovered from the member-consumers of San Jose before funds could be made available [?]..” (Bold letters, mine) This tax measure would automatically reflect on our electric bill the moment it is imposed. It’s an additional financial burden for us consumers.

But hopefully, this tax measure - if ultimately imposed - would pave the way for improvement of basic social services for the people of San Jose. With basic services such as education, health, infrastructure and the rest, that came from local taxes,- indeed, we citizens are empowered.

In the same letter, Dantis’ requests to Villarosa are as follows and I am quoting them word for word :

1. “That OMECO be spared of penalties, interests and/or surcharges for the accounts until we could pay the dues – current and amortization of past due obligations – on time after we had the approval from ERC to recover;

2. That OMECO be allowed to spread its payment for the past due obligations for a period of five (5) years minimum – again free from penalties, interests and/or surcharges, on an equal monthly payment basis, and

3. That the charges on poles be limited to those erected in municipal road rights- of- way only, thereby exempting those that are situated on private lots, provincial and national roads?”

I just do not know if the two gentlemen,- Villarosa and Dantis, were already able to sit and talk on the matter. Also, nowhere in both letters gave hint that could lead us directly on what specific tax obligation are they referring to. Was it the charges on service poles?

Calling the attention of those who are privy to the issue and could you inform the public on the details of Municipal Tax Ordinance No. 743? What it is all about? When was it crafted? Who are its authors and sponsors? As a taxpayer and member-consumer of OMECO, could you please educate us on the matter? Please, do not allow such information to be as elusive as our dream of financial stability. Besides, information is power and it is priceless!

What should come first is not the power to tax or taxing power but the empowerment of the taxpayer…

(Photo from Google images)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Phone Call From Hong Kong

Criselda “Cely” Marcelo,- my sister-in-law, is the president of Occidental Mindoro Association in Hong Kong or OMAHK and she called up last night all the way from HK informing her mother that she is okay and her relationship with employers is not affected by the tragic hostage crisis in Manila.

There were at least 100,142 Filipinos working in Hong Kong in 2009.
Hong Kong is listed as the top working destination for “Household Service Workers” with at least 71,557 new hires in 2009. This is based on figures from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

According to presidential Communications Group Development Secretary Ricky Carandang in a press conference yesterday, “We're still trying to confirm reports that a Filipino maid was fired by her employers because of what happened.” Concerned government authorities, specially Malacanang, are verifying reports of physical threats against Filipinos who are residing or working in HK.

My sister-in-law added, through a telephone conversation with my wife last night, that though her good relation with her Chinese employers remained, she was advised by the couple,- if possible, to stay away from the streets while the emotions are still high and be extra careful when she is outside of their flat. Cely told her worrying sister, “Don’t worry, all of these will just pass.”

Cely went to HK when her son Patrick was barely two years old. It has been more that 15 years that she’s with the couple and practically took care of the needs of the couples’ two daughters. From their personal to academic needs. She feeds them and bring them to school everyday. She also assist the children in their home works. To the kids, she is not only their nanny but their second mother. She is a family member to them and the couple knows all her commitment, dedication and effort to her job.

For Cely, this is not only for financial reason but more importantly, it is her contribution to humanity. In her particular case, isn’t treating children as your own is a vocation and not a mere profession? Hard work and dedication or commitment bring good personal relation and it is indeed counts. Even over diplomatic affairs of two countries.

Christians as we are, let us also remember, not only the souls of innocent victims of the tragedy but also the soul of the hostage-taker. Do not only remember the suffering that the victims and their relatives have but remember too the positive fruits that came out in this suffering : media organizations’ move to organize themselves and how to respond collectively to incident, this became a wake- up call for Philippine law enforcers to revisit their manuals and guidelines and aim for more trainings and exercises on hostage situations, for our legislators to pass laws on how to improve government security agencies, for our external affairs offices to evaluate or assess their tasks, etc.

But let us not forget our experiences, the “sidebar stories” that popped out from this latest tragic story showing fundamental and universal traits of human beings, regardless of our creed, color, nationality and belief : fruits of comradeship, loyalty, humility, generosity and greatness of heart.

This is my call and prayer to HK people : May these fruits be ultimately become seeds of forgiveness…

(Photo from AP)

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Fake Open Letter

To All Lawmakers Who Support the New Divorce Bill :

Thank you very much for filing and supporting House Bill (HB) 1799 or “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines”. You do not know how greatly elated we are with your recent advocacy pushing for divorce here in our country. If that legal separation clause in our family code will not result to the dissolution of marriage, the passing of this bill is important for we can find another woman treating her the way we treat our previous,- we mean current, partners.

But would you please,- next time, file also another bill illegalizing marriage? It would be the easiest way, or shortcut, to end all of these marital concerns. In addition, do campaign and advocate rigidly for out-of-marriage relationships or “live-ins” especially among our youth.

This bill, if passed and enacted, would really favor us. This would put us to high heavens. Especially our members whose wives are no longer young, pretty and sexy and are already turned-off by their wives' physical attributes thus they are psychologically incapacitated with the essential marital obligations (i.e. to seduce us and turn us on!). Isn’t also that another form of irreconcilable difference that would cause irreparable breakdown of marriage?

Our dear lawmakers, please do not mind leaders of the Catholic church when they say : “Legalizing something that is immoral will not make it right, but will instead make it worse.” Ignore them for since time in memoriam, we do not believe in them. We do not believe in religion either.

Moreover, we do not believe in morality, do we? More so in the sacrament of marriage for we do not believe in marriage as a life- long commitment. To hell with those who say that marriage is a social contract. All we want is individual freedom. We no longer think of its effects on our children and the community. They are just obstacles to the image that we wish to project to others, especially to those young, pretty and sexy ladies out there. That “for better or worse” thing really sucks!

We are very happy to think that someday we can get wives as many as we could through our connections in the courts or be lucky enough to be elected to government offices for many of them are womanizers just like us.

Again, thank you very much, and may you continue to support this marginalized group of ours.

Very truly yours,

Andres de Mano
Philanderers and Wife-beaters Association of the Philippines, Ltd.

P.S – We are thinking of joining the party list next election...

(Photo soflinked from Flicker)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Values in Honesty and Whistleblowing

I will officially be a member of Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals or BCBP- San Jose Chapter this coming Saturday, August 7, 2010. Truth to tell, BCBP’s “Be Honest” advocacy program somewhat “magnetized” me to join this Catholic renewal community of businessmen and professionals here in Occidental Mindoro. The “Be Honest” campaign program which promote the value of honesty was launched via a nationwide activity seven years ago participated in by 113 chapters and outreaches all over the country.

The campaign slogan of President Simeon Benigno C. Aquino III “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”, made me realize that while groups like the BCBP rally for value of honesty, his government should focus on tapping the civil society on disseminating information and paralegal know-how on whistleblowing. Whistleblowing, at least figuratively speaking, is a gargantuan task. It may endanger the whistleblower. His or her property or family. So this value should be inculcated in our minds especially the youth : It is our duty as citizens of our country and citizens of the world to fight corruption for common interest that can defy all fears. It is the most effective deterrent to corruption. Therefore, it needs the cooperation of the whole sector of society. And creativity towards this end is an imperative.

Former Tanodbayan Simeon Marcelo has this to say, “As citizens, let us all realize that good governance is equally our responsibility. We are not simply the victims of graft and corruption, but also, and more importantly, we are its enemies. As such, we must constantly look for venues and opportunities to promote honesty and integrity in government, like whistleblowing. Needless to state, the willingness to join this war against graft and corruption must be nurtured and supported by tangible measures from the government, i.e., a system of rewards and incentives, as well as protection from the informant.”

In his write-up called “Ethics and Spirituality of Whistleblowing” from a booklet published by the Office of the Ombudsman and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus in 2006, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, SJ said that the following are core values embodied in whistleblowing, paralleled with what the whistleblowers themselves think of what they are into : Sense of truth and justice (Hindi ko matiis na wala akong ginagawa sa harap-harapang pandaraya); Love of country (Ngayong nasa panganib na ang buhay ko, kahit maliit ang suweldo, damang-dama ko na mahal ko talaga ang bayan ko); Hope in humanity (Kaya nga ako nagsusumbong, dahil kahit papaano, umaasa ako na may katarungan pa rin sa ating sistema at may natitira pa ring mga taong mabubuti); Concern for the common good (Kung para sa sarili ko lang, e, bakit pa ako papasok sa gulo? Pagmamalasakit sa mas nakakarami, doon ako dinadala ng ginagawa ko); Faith in Action (Kumakapit lang ako sa pananampalataya ko sa Diyos na siyang nakakakita ng lahat); Deep love of family (Ginagawa ko ito dahil mahal ko ang aking mga anak, kahit apektado sila sa nangyayari. Sana balang araw maintindihan din nila ako); Personal conversion (Inaamin ko naman na hindi din ako malinis. Pero kasama ito sa aking pagbabagong-loob at pagbabagong dangal).

The BCBP advocacy was manifested by putting up billboards, posters, streamers, car stickers, t-shirts and other collaterals bearing the now familiar program’s message: “Be Honest, Even if others are not, Even if others will not, Even if others cannot.” But these words must be translated into action for faith is an action word. But why bother to be honest? What’s the point of being honest? Why be honest when it pays to be dishonest? Why fight for others, why they won’t fight for you or even for themselves? This need not to be answered by my brothers and sisters at BCBP.

Because before the BCBP came into existence, the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno,- one of my “life mentors” already answered these questions : “The answer lies what life means to you. If life means having a goodtime, money, fame, power, security – when you do not need principles, all you need are techniques. On the other hand, if happiness counts more than a good time, respect more than fame, right more than power and peace of soul more than security; if life doesn’t end life but transforms it, then you must be true to yourself and to God, and to love the truth and justice and freedom that are God’s other names.”

A mouthful but for me is the most human yet most powerful way of answering those questions…

(Photo softlinked from 4.bp.blogspot.com)