MANILA, JUNE 19, 2012 (PHILSTAR) SPY BITS By Babe Romualdez - Even the most prestigious clubs are not immune to controversies, like the Manila Rotary which recently held – with much success – its Journalism Awards in honor of outstanding media personalities and entities.

The term of outgoing president architect Urbano “Banit” Caasi seems to be marked by a lot of infighting and disagreements from several quarters.

One of the casualties is past Rotary president Benjamin “Ben” Santos whose expulsion by the current Board led by Caasi is now the subject of litigation before a Makati Regional Trial Court.

Santos, who was unceremoniously removed as Insurance Commissioner by former President Arroyo, is embroiled in controversy having been blamed for the purchase of a biometric machine worth P177,000 from a company named I Oasis.

The machine reportedly proved defective and was pulled out by the supplier who allegedly failed to return the machine and the money paid by the Manila Rotary. Sources disclosed however that the more serious issue had to do with the alleged failure of Santos to disclose his (50 percent) interest in I Oasis.

In one of the issues of Balita, the in-house publication of the Manila Rotary, Caasi decried the conflict of interest that marred the purchase of the defective machine and its implications on the leadership at the Rotary.

Not surprisingly, this did not sit well with Santos who, during a regular luncheon meeting of the Club, rudely confronted Caasi in public uttering a “colorful” Filipino expletive.

Pride hurt and nerves frayed, the outgoing president subsequently filed a criminal complaint of “slander by deed” before the Makati Prosecutor’s office.

The incident prompted a board resolution ordering the expulsion of Santos – who disputed the action claiming the board failed to conduct an impartial investigation and did not observe due process. Santos said Caasi spurned his overtures to settle the issue amicably – leaving him no choice but to seek relief from the courts.

Last April, Branch 149 of the Makati Regional Trial Court issued a 20-day temporary restraining order enjoining the incumbent board from acting on the resolution of expulsion. Santos said the board violated the TRO when it still went ahead with the expulsion. He also claims that he properly disclosed his interest in I Oasis, and that a certification of the disclosure was given to the board and its officers prior to the approval of the biometric project.

“We asked for an impartial investigation of the case this Board made against me but no investigation was ever made so the facts of my case can be properly evaluated,” the former IC chief wrote, adding that he hoped the next board under president-elect Obet Pagdanganan would review his case and mount an impartial investigation. Pagdanganan reportedly said he cannot move without a subsequent court resolution on the matter.

Lawyers of Caasi, however, say the Makati RTC order was misinterpreted since the TRO, and eventually the preliminary injunction, only called for the non-publication of the expulsion. Besides, the TRO by its very nature is temporary and was only effective for 20 days (or until April 23). Since the period has expired, there exists no court order preventing the RCM from performing any act in relation to the expulsion of Santos, the lawyers noted, adding that it was latter who did not take the opportunity to appeal his expulsion before the general membership meeting of the Rotary.

Manila Rotary is the oldest club in Asia so one would think its members – whose average age is on the “senior” level – would display a high degree of maturity. But the controversy and infighting is driving public perception that they are “not acting their age.”

(Disclosure: I resigned from the Manila Rotary two years ago but was invited back by the late RCM president Gert A. Gust.)

Americans fight ‘double taxation’

The non-profit, all volunteer organization American Citizens Abroad (ACA) is exerting a lot of effort in pushing for legislation that would push residence-based taxation instead of the current citizen-based taxation. The US is the only developed country that uses a taxation system based on citizenship rather than residence – meaning even those who were not born in the US and have never worked there but whose parent is an American citizen can be hounded by the IRS for failure to pay taxes, and are also required to file disclosures regarding (foreign) bank account information.

There have been a lot of stories about Americans living outside the US who have renounced their citizenship due to growing tax obligations and other requirements by the IRS, with the Foreign Tax Compliance Act or FATCA perceived as a scheme to shore up the US economy at the expense of citizens who have opted to work or live abroad, in the process becoming citizens in their host country.

According to the ACA, which recently held its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the current tax system places a lot of disadvantage for the US economy on the whole and ordinary Americans who live and work all over the world – including Fil-Am and expats who denounce what they call “double taxation.”

“We’ve already sent our alternative proposal to US tax experts around the world, and have presented and discussed it with members of Congress. From their reactions, we know this is a serious and well-founded alternative to the present system of citizen-based taxation which causes so many serious problems,” an ACA official disclosed.

Spy tidbit

Philippine Stock Exchange director Vivian Yuchengco sent us a thought provoking message concerning media and its role, which we are printing verbatim: “Media can criticize but not malign; media can be persistent but not impertinent; media can investigate but not prosecute; media can opine but not judge; media can express but not impress; media can evaluate but not speculate; media can advocate but not pontificate; media should inspire but not conspire.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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