"What good have these agencies done?"
The Bureau of Internal Revenue’s order that online sellers must pay income tax came as a shocker to people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and who have just been trying to make ends meet.
Does this mean that the lowly bibingka or halo-halo seller also has to pay taxes? I was bewildered when I pondered what the BIR was thinking. With all our problems brought by the pandemic, how could the agency be so heartless and stupid?
Two senators, Bong Go and Sherwin Gatchalian, are right in calling the BIR move untimely, coming as it did with no less than 7.3 million Filipinos who are now jobless, and 20 million going hungry.
My gulay, according to reports, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators have not paid P70 billion in taxes. Why don’t the BIR and Pagcor (which gives them their license) go after them? Why is the government so soft on these Chinese-owned and -operated POGOs?
And if the Duterte government is so much in need of funds, there are many other ways that it can raise money—for example, reorganizing the bureaucracy and abolishing useless government agencies.
I can name two government agencies that have become useless and corrupt. First is the Presidential Commission on Good Government, organized because President Cory Aquino wanted to go after the hidden and ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies.
All these years that the PCGG has been in existence, how much has it recovered? A dismal amount—and the worst part is that the PCGG has been losing almost all its cases against the Marcoses.
Recall those days when Cory Aquino appointed fiscal agents and commissioners who have been accused of taking expensive junkets, even bringing their secretaries with then.
There have been many recommendations to abolish the PCGG but I wonder what happened to those recommendations.
Another agency we can do without is the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. Its functions, in the first place, can be taken over by the Office of the Solicitor General. This office has been surrounded by many questions especially after the ouster of Philip Jurado, who tried to go after lawyers and their corrupt practices. The Commission on Audit has in fact flagged these practices. Alas, happy days are here again for the corrupt because the Office of the President listened to them and ousted Jurado instead.
(Disclosure: Philip Jurado is my nephew.)
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The conviction of Maria Ressa and her researcher-reporter at Rappler is a warning for the rest of us to be circumspect in our use of the Internet. We may be committing libel against others. Freedom to express oneself is not absolute.
The crime of libel, in whatever means, has three elements. First, the identification of the person. Second, the imputation of a crime or anything to destroy one’s reputation. Finally, there must be malice.
And that is exactly what happened in the case of Ressa. That businessman was already libeled in 2012, and then Rappler reposted the article.
But this is not the end. They can still post bail for their freedom. I am certain this will be elevated to the higher courts.
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Three family friends have died since the lockdown. I am sad that we were not able to commiserate with their families.
First was Chinese General Hospital eye doctor, Cayetano Mangahas. The second was businessman Fred Revita. The third is Perfecto Yasay. To all their loved ones, please accept our condolences.