DETAINED INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' RIGHTS ACTIVIST POSTS BAIL IN SURIGAO CITY  

PHOTO: Genasque Enriquez, in red, during a march by Katribu Partylist back in 2010 in Manila (photo courtesy of Katribu). Katribu Partylist vice-president Genasque Enriquez is being charged with murder and is being accused by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of being a member of the New People’s Army. Enriquez is a Lumad and has been an active organizer within the Lumad community for many years in Surigao del Sur. An indigenous peoples' rights activist was arrested in Surigao City Friday but gained his temporary liberty Saturday after posting bail, a Davao-based news site reported Sunday.

Genasque Enriquez posted bail before the Surigao City regional trial court Saturday morning, according to a report on Davao Today. Enriquez, 41, is the national vice chairman of Katribu party list. He was arrested Friday afternoon at a food house along Rizal Street by a team with members from the police and military. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said Enriquez had just attended a press conference for the people's initiative against the pork barrel system slated in Cebu on Saturday. "Genasque (was) arrested on the eve of launching of People's Initiative in Cebu," he said. On Saturday, Enriquez and lawyer Jose Begil Jr. posted P200,000 bail on each of three frustrated murder charges before the Surigao del Sur court. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Detained anti-pork Lumad freed as ‘People’s Initiative’ starts 

In Cebu City, where the People's Initiative kicks off, anti-pork activists denounce the arrest of the indigenous leader. ANTI-PORK LEADER. Indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez did not make it to the 'People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel' congress after authorities arrested him in Surigao City. Photo Indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez, by KarapatanANTI-PORK LEADER. --Indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez was supposed to represent Lumads from Mindanao at a congress in Cebu that launched a people’s initiative against the “pork barrel” or discretionary funds on Saturday, August 23. He did not make it to the gathering dubbed “People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel” after authorities arrested him in Surigao City before his flight on Friday, August 22. “Hindi ko na-avail yung due process of law. Hindi ako nakatanggap ng kahit anong subpoena. Nabigla ako,” Enriquez told Rappler in a phone interview. (I was not afforded the due process of law. I did not receive any subpoena. I was surprised.) Police and military personnel arrested Enriquez using an alias warrant for frustrated murder. With the help of nuns, human rights groups, and his colleagues, he was released on bail after being detained for about 17 hours, the Manobo leader said.

Enriquez previously faced charges linking him to a New People’s Army (NPA) ambush in Mindanao. “Previous false charges against him have been dismissed for lack of cause. Suddenly a frustrated murder charge which was purportedly committed by him in 2013 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur sprang up to ensure his imprisonment,” according to Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the indigenous group KALUMARAN. Enriquez denied the allegations, stressing that he is only defending his ancestral land from “mining operations and militarization” through protests. “The Lumad people are the first victims of environmental destruction and human rights violations,” Enriquez told Rappler in Filipino, explaining why he has been the target of alleged “political harassment.” SIGN UP. The 'People's Initiative' seeks to gather at least 6 million signatures to abolish the pork barrel system. Photo by Eman VillanuevaSIGN UP. The 'People's Initiative' seeks to gather at least 6 million signatures to abolish the pork barrel system. Photo by Eman VillanuevaPeople’s Initiative In Cebu City, where the gathering against the pork barrel kicked off on Saturday, August 23, participants denounced the arrest of the indigenous leader. “His arrest yesterday happened as the campaign for People’s Initiative against the pork barrel system is about to take off. Magsisimula pa lang, pikon na si BS Aquino (President Aquino is already piqued by the people’s initiative that is being launched)," Karapatan Secretary General Tinay Palabay said. * READ MORE...

ALSO by Sonny Angara: Overtaxing working, middle classes

… [I]t is the duty of the State … to promote people’s welfare, assuring everyone of
equal economic opportunity, wholesome living conditions, a chance to work for a decent livelihood, a fair share of the fruits of the country’s material progress and the enjoyment of a standard of living in accordance with the basic needs of self-respecting intelligent men.”–President Manuel L. Quezon of Baler (“Filipinos of Today, Filipinos of Yesterday”)

Our country suffers from inequalities, as the gaping chasm between the haves and the have-nots persists. Having our current tax system continue would exacerbate such an unjust situation. The middle class, one-fourth of the country’s total number of families, could shrink over time, falling into the ranks of the millions forced to live day-to-day, while the upper class (0.1 percent of the families) zooms even farther ahead of the pack. When I filed early this year Senate Bill No. 2149 to lower individual income taxes across the board and adjust tax brackets, little did I anticipate the tremendous support the measure would generate. Prudent --The germ of the idea came from an unlikely source—Commissioner Kim Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who said that the “most prudent way” was to have a holistic approach in amending our tax system, during a Dec. 17, 2013 committee hearing on 13th month pay. The statement intrigued me, causing me to look at the provisions of the Tax Code. I discovered that the percentage and tax brackets have remained unchanged since the 1990s. During our first hearing for SBN 2149, one of our resource persons was from a noted tax consultancy firm. She shared that her 20-year-old daughter was hired for her first business process outsourcing job. She noted that though her daughter graduated a year ago, her gross income was already taxed at the third-highest rate of 25 percent. Practically everyone I meet, whether old friend or new acquaintance, express support for our efforts to lower taxes. And this should come as no surprise. The Philippines has some of the highest taxes in Southeast Asia, not to mention one of the highest value-added tax (VAT) rates at 12 percent. Income is taxed at very high percentages and at very low thresholds or amounts and brackets. Tax-free in Singapore  * CONTINUE READING...
 

ALSO: People’s initiative vs ‘pork’ on    

Thousands of citizens from various sectors are expected to join rallies in Rizal Park and other parts of the country today to jumpstart a signature campaign for a people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system and other schemes in the national budget that allots lump-sum appropriations for lawmakers. Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said a protest program and a signature drive would be held at the same time in Rizal Park. “Groups and personalities who figured in the first ‘Million People March’ last year also helped organize this year’s event. The people’s initiative, a signup campaign to introduce a new law banning the pork barrel system, will be a new component of the Luneta action,” he said. Apart from Bayan and #abolishpork, Scrap Pork Network, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Concerned Citizens Movement, Youth ACT Now, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, Church People’s Alliance Against Pork Barrel, Nationalist Movement, and various sectoral groups are also mobilizing for the event.

The people’s initiative aims to collect about five to six million signatures nationwide to demand the removal of all discretionary lump sum funds within or outside of the yearly national budget. The rally, dubbed as “Stand Up Against All Pork,” will also highlight the first anniversary of the Million People March, wherein thousands of people gathered at the historic park amid the pork-barrel fund scandal. Reyes said the Rizal Park rally is also “an occasion to register the people’s strongest opposition to Charter change and term extension and Aquino’s attacks on the judiciary to reverse the Supreme Court ruling on DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program).” Musician Monet Silvestre, one of those who first amplified the call for the anti-pork rally last year, has composed a reggae jingle to help raise awareness. Silvestre, part of the ‘80s musical group The Tux, is also the spokesperson for #abolishpork. Various church groups will also join the mass action against the pork barrel system. Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz will lead Catholic leaders, nuns and clergy in joining the protest rally that coincides with the celebration of National Heroes Day. Dubbed as “Stand Up, Sign Up Against All Pork,” the rally in Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, will be held from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. *READ MORE...

ALSO: 10M signatures to wipe out ‘pork’  

The different groups behind the people’s initiative campaign to wipe out the pork barrel tradition in Congress are aiming to get as many as 10 million autographs or nearly double the minimum threshold needed to make this proposal cemented into law. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares (photo) said the People’s Congress would put up “signature stations” in schools, public markets, churches, and town plazas nationwide through coordinating committees located in the provinces. In a radio interview, Colmenares said that after the Visayas leg was launched in Cebu Saturday, the Luzon leg would kick off on Monday (Aug. 25) to be followed by Mindanao in either Cagayan de Oro or Davao within the week.

“We are targeting up to 10 million signatures to have a buffer because many things could happen; the Comelec (Commission on Elections) might remove some of the signatures. By December 31, the last day of this year, we hope to get the minimum 10 percent (of voters) plus buffer. At least a 1-million buffer is good enough for me,” said Colmenares. With 52 million voters registered in the 2010 elections and at least 200,000 voters added since then, the group has pegged the compliance rate at 6 million signatures. “We have to do this to prevent the redefinition of savings every time the GAA (General Appropriations Act) is filed. The insertion of lump sums or pork barrel in the budget will have a penalty of 6 years and one day to 10 years imprisonment and will make up for the lack of a law prohibiting pork barrel,” said Colmenares. “This is the cleansing process we need to move out of the tradition of political patronage.” *READ MORE...

(ALSO) Palace: What pork? No such thing in budget–Abad     

On the eve of a massive protest to be held at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday, Aug. 25,
Malacañang on Sunday maintained that the graft-ridden pork barrel had been scrapped. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines–What pork? Define pork. On the eve of a massive protest to be held at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday, Malacañang on Sunday maintained that the graft-ridden pork barrel had been scrapped. “We disagree that the pork barrel system remains in the 2015 NEP (National Expenditure Program) submitted by the administration to Congress,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told the Inquirer. In a text message, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he could “categorically” declare that the pork barrel no longer existed in the present budgeting system.

Various groups are staging a massive protest against the pork barrel at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday, a year after Filipinos, angered at learning from a series of Inquirer reports that legislators connived with a businesswoman to embezzle P10 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), tried a Million People March in Luneta to demand the abolition of the pork barrel. The rally, which had no leaders, failed to achieve the million-people objective, with the participants numbering only 85,000 to 100,000, according to Manila police. But the message hit home: President Aquino abolished the PDAF and ordered a line-item budgeting system to rid the budget of lump sums whose expenditure requires endorsement by lawmakers. The PDAF, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, was a pork barrel that financed pet projects of legislators. But its abolition did not really deprive lawmakers of a source of kickbacks and patronage funds, as they continued to be allowed projects to be paid for with public funds under the new budgeting system. Monday’s protesters aim to gather 6 million signatures to support a proposal for the abolition of the pork barrel. They are taking the campaign across the country to get 10 million signatures to support the people’s initiative bill that would scrap pork in budgeting. Massive lump sums * READ MORE...

ALSO: CoA asked to produce PDAF audit under Noy   

Where are the Commission on Audit (CoA) reports on the use of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Malampaya Funds under the administration of President Aquino? Sen. Nancy Binay reiterated her call yesterday for the CoA to immediately release the full audit reports of several controversial government funds which have been linked to questionable transactions, as well as corruption under the present regime. All the CoA had thus far released is a Special Report on PDAF covering 2007 to 2009 which was selective in targeting mainly opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. who are all now detained on allegations of plunder mainly based on the CoA report. Binay said that it has already been more than a year since the probe on the PDAF scam and the expose on alleged illegal releases of the Malampaya Funds but until now CoA has not given the public even a summary of its audit report covering the years 2010 to 2013. “It has been a year since the reports were being awaited but it seems CoA to take any action. Fairness dictates that the state audit firm release even a summary if they can’t produce the full audit report on the PDAF (under Aquino),” Binay said. “CoA also has not produced an audit of controversial projects under DAP from 2011 to 2013,” she added.

Based on records, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) continued to release funds from PDAF, DAP and Malampaya from 2010 to 2013 even after state auditors questioned their use or the way DBM (Department of Budget and Management), legislators and implementing agencies handled the funds. “The CoA is leaving everything hanging and has been issuing promises and press releases. It would be prudent for COA to immediately release their findings, including other NGOs (non government organizations) which took part in the PDAF and Malampaya deals,” Binay said. The Supreme Court had declared PDAF and Palace acts creating the DAP as unconstitutional, while much of the P900 million Malampaya fund allegedly went to bogus NGOs linked to administration solons and Janet Lim-Napoles.
She noted that while the PDAF and DAP have been in the news for some time, the only time people hear about the Malampaya fund is through the occasional report in the news while there has been no disclosure about the PDAF from 2010 to 2013. Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada had even criticized the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Palace ally Sen. Teofisto Guingona for sitting on his demand for the start of an incisive probe on the use of the Malampaya Funds. “It is good that there is a list of recipients for DAP, at least we can see who benefited from it but the PDAF from 2010 until 2013 has none up to this time,” she said. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Benjamin Diokno: Seditious  

Why would President Aquino III seek to weaken the Supreme Court? Has he gone mad? He already made Congress an adjunct of the Presidency by usurping the congressional power of the purse. Shouldn’t he be working for the strengthening of political institutions as a way of making the country’s budding democracy stronger and enduring? If Mr. Aquino was truly committed to a system of government that is different from the authoritarian regime that the 1987 Constitution sought to replace, he should embrace, not fight, the Supreme Court decision that ruled his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional. The Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) was right when it described as “seditious or treasonous” President Aquino’s motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider its unanimous ruling that the DAP is unconstitutional.
“To initiate or encourage any measure to subvert or undermine or spoil the enforcement of the unanimous decision of the Court applying and interpreting the Constitution is seditious or treasonous. It is a mutiny against the Constitution,” Philconsa warned.

Why should Mr. Aquino try to weaken the Judiciary, and consequently strengthen the Presidency, when the Philippine president is unquestionably already very powerful. In fact, the Philippine president is stronger than the President of the United States, the mightiest militarily and most democratic country on Planet Earth. In a tripartite system of government – the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary – the President, representing the Executive Department, is primus inter pares (a first among equals). The President is the Commander-in-Chief of 129,780-strong armed forces of the Philippines. He commands a 196,245 police officers and men of the Philippine National Police. In most countries, peace and order is a local concern and thus implemented by local authorities. In the Philippines, the Philippine National Police is national in scope and hence under the direct command and supervision of the President.

The President supervises all local government units – the 81 provinces, 144 cities, 1,490 municipalities, and 42,028 barangays. The President is the country’s chief executive officer (CEO). He is the boss of some 1.2 million civil servants. Compare that with Congress’ 6,084 workers (one half of one percent of the entire bureaucracy, and with the Judiciary’s 25,247 justices and court employees, or about 2.1 percent of the entire bureaucracy. The President commands an army and a national police. He controls the biggest chunk of government resources. Remember, he is just one individual exercising all these awesome powers. He can be a virtual dictator within the Executive Department. He can decide quickly and implement such decision promptly.  By contrast, the other co-equal branches of government – Congress and the Supreme Court – are collegial bodies. Decision-making is slow, oftentimes tedious, and decisions are arrived at through consensus. Notice, for example, how long it took the High Court to decide on the DAP issue.

Once a law is passed, Congress has no way of compelling the President to implement it; hence, the existence of many unfunded and unimplemented laws. Unless some concerned individuals or groups bring the case to the Supreme Court, there is no way such unimplemented laws may be enforced. Congress has no army of its own.
But even if the Supreme Court rules against the President, the High Court has no way of compelling the President to implement its decision. The Supreme Court, too, has no army of its own. That is why honoring and respecting the rule of law is expected of all public officials. No less than the President has sworn to “uphold and defend” the Constitution of the Philippines.*CONTINUE READING TO THE END....


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Detained indigenous peoples' rights activist posts bail in Surigao City


Genasque Enriquez, in red, during a march by Katribu Partylist back in 2010 in Manila (photo courtesy of Katribu). Katribu Partylist vice-president Genasque Enriquez is being charged with murder and is being accused by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of being a member of the New People’s Army. Enriquez is a Lumad and has been an active organizer within the Lumad community for many years in Surigao del Sur.

SURIGAO CITY, AUGUST 25, 2014 (GMA NEWS) An indigenous peoples' rights activist was arrested in Surigao City Friday but gained his temporary liberty Saturday after posting bail, a Davao-based news site reported Sunday.

Genasque Enriquez posted bail before the Surigao City regional trial court Saturday morning, according to a report on Davao Today.

Enriquez, 41, is the national vice chairman of Katribu party list.

He was arrested Friday afternoon at a food house along Rizal Street by a team with members from the police and military.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said Enriquez had just attended a press conference for the people's initiative against the pork barrel system slated in Cebu on Saturday.

"Genasque (was) arrested on the eve of launching of People's Initiative in Cebu," he said.

On Saturday, Enriquez and lawyer Jose Begil Jr. posted P200,000 bail on each of three frustrated murder charges before the Surigao del Sur court.

* The Davao Today report said the Army’s 11th Special Action Company and 75th Infantry Battalion filed murder charges against Enriquez, in connection with a New People’s Army ambush in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur on July 21.

Davao Today said Enriquez, in an interview Friday, insisted he was “never hiding and he is not guilty” of the charges the military filed against him.

“I am active in campaigns to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples and the environment,” he said on the day he was arrested.

Human rights groups have condemned the filing of the murder cases, calling them trumped up. — Joel Locsin/JDS, GMA News

FROM RAPPLER.COM

Detained anti-pork Lumad freed as ‘People’s Initiative’ starts Published 11:33 PM, Aug 23, 2014 Updated 7:05 PM, Aug 24, 2014 By Voltaire Tupaz RAPPLER.COM

In Cebu City, where the People's Initiative kicks off, anti-pork activists denounce the arrest of the indigenous leader


ANTI-PORK LEADER. Indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez did not make it to the 'People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel' congress after authorities arrested him in Surigao City. Photo by KarapatanANTI-PORK LEADER. Indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez did not make it to the 'People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel' congress after authorities arrested him in Surigao City. Photo by Karapatan

MANILA, Philippines – Indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez was supposed to represent Lumads from Mindanao at a congress in Cebu that launched a people’s initiative against the “pork barrel” or discretionary funds on Saturday, August 23.

He did not make it to the gathering dubbed “People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel” after authorities arrested him in Surigao City before his flight on Friday, August 22.

“Hindi ko na-avail yung due process of law. Hindi ako nakatanggap ng kahit anong subpoena. Nabigla ako,” Enriquez told Rappler in a phone interview. (I was not afforded the due process of law. I did not receive any subpoena. I was surprised.)

Police and military personnel arrested Enriquez using an alias warrant for frustrated murder. With the help of nuns, human rights groups, and his colleagues, he was released on bail after being detained for about 17 hours, the Manobo leader said.

Enriquez previously faced charges linking him to a New People’s Army (NPA) ambush in Mindanao.

“Previous false charges against him have been dismissed for lack of cause. Suddenly a frustrated murder charge which was purportedly committed by him in 2013 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur sprang up to ensure his imprisonment,” according to Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the indigenous group KALUMARAN.

Enriquez denied the allegations, stressing that he is only defending his ancestral land from “mining operations and militarization” through protests.

“The Lumad people are the first victims of environmental destruction and human rights violations,” Enriquez told Rappler in Filipino, explaining why he has been the target of alleged “political harassment.”

SIGN UP. The 'People's Initiative' seeks to gather at least 6 million signatures to abolish the pork barrel system. Photo by Eman VillanuevaSIGN UP. The 'People's Initiative' seeks to gather at least 6 million signatures to abolish the pork barrel system. Photo by Eman VillanuevaPeople’s Initiative

In Cebu City, where the gathering against the pork barrel kicked off on Saturday, August 23, participants denounced the arrest of the indigenous leader.

“His arrest yesterday happened as the campaign for People’s Initiative against the pork barrel system is about to take off. Magsisimula pa lang, pikon na si BS Aquino (President Aquino is already piqued by the people’s initiative that is being launched)," Karapatan Secretary General Tinay Palabay said.

* Enriquez urged participants to continue the initiative, saying that marginalized indigenous peoples will support the campaign because it is consistent with their right to self-determination.

“Ang mga Lumad ay kasama ng sambayanan sa pagpapanday ng batas laban sa pork barrel – laban sa korapsyon – sa pamamagitan ng people’s initiative,” Enriquez said. (The Lumad are one with the people in crafting a law against the pork barrel – against corruption – through the people’s initiative.)

The Initiative and Referendum Law (Republic Act 6735) allows registered voters to directly propose a bill – a constitutionally guaranteed form of public empowerment when elected lawmakers would not author a proposed measure.

At least 10% of the total number of registered voters nationwide – including at least 3% of voters in each legislative district – should endorse the bill for it to pass.

“Today we formally launch the proposed People’s Initiative bill – “An Act Abolishing the Pork Barrel System,” Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Abolish Pork Movement declared during the gathering attended by more than 1,000 participants.

Congress participants are optimistic they can gather at least 6 million signatures for the initiative.

“It’s a tough task – like the Long March – from a culture of impunity to a culture of integrity…We’re positive despite the challenges because it’s a constructive mode for change with a clear goal,” according to Change.org campaign director Inday Espina–Varona, who was one of the congress delegates.

‘Sign up, stand up’

The Catholic Church is backing the people's initiative, having earlier urged the people to propose a law that would end the practice of appropriating lump sums in the national budget under various pretexts.

In a message of support read at the congress in Cebu, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle told the participants: “Thank you for making democracy alive and active. Thank you for advancing decency in public life. Thank you for giving voice to countless victims of corruption, especially the poor and marginalized.”

Meanwhile, officials of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) said in a statement they will support protests “until the pork barrel in all its form is eradicated in our system of government.”

A major protest dubbed “Stand Up, Sign Up Against All Pork” will be organized on Monday, August 25, in Rizal Park. The rally coincides with the first anniversary of the Million People March that magnified public outrage over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. The social media-fueled protest movement in 2013 triggered the Aquino administration's decision to overhaul the pork barrel scheme. – Rappler.com

FROM THE INQUIRER

Overtaxing working, middle classes By Sonny Angara |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:01 am | Sunday, August 24th, 2014



… [I]t is the duty of the State … to promote people’s welfare, assuring everyone of equal economic opportunity, wholesome living conditions, a chance to work for a decent livelihood, a fair share of the fruits of the country’s material progress and the enjoyment of a standard of living in accordance with the basic needs of self-respecting intelligent men.”–President Manuel L. Quezon of Baler (“Filipinos of Today, Filipinos of Yesterday”)

Our country suffers from inequalities, as the gaping chasm between the haves and the have-nots persists. Having our current tax system continue would exacerbate such an unjust situation. The middle class, one-fourth of the country’s total number of families, could shrink over time, falling into the ranks of the millions forced to live day-to-day, while the upper class (0.1 percent of the families) zooms even farther ahead of the pack.

When I filed early this year Senate Bill No. 2149 to lower individual income taxes across the board and adjust tax brackets, little did I anticipate the tremendous support the measure would generate.

Prudent

The germ of the idea came from an unlikely source—Commissioner Kim Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who said that the “most prudent way” was to have a holistic approach in amending our tax system, during a Dec. 17, 2013 committee hearing on 13th month pay.

The statement intrigued me, causing me to look at the provisions of the Tax Code. I discovered that the percentage and tax brackets have remained unchanged since the 1990s.

During our first hearing for SBN 2149, one of our resource persons was from a noted tax consultancy firm. She shared that her 20-year-old daughter was hired for her first business process outsourcing job. She noted that though her daughter graduated a year ago, her gross income was already taxed at the third-highest rate of 25 percent.

Practically everyone I meet, whether old friend or new acquaintance, express support for our efforts to lower taxes. And this should come as no surprise. The Philippines has some of the highest taxes in Southeast Asia, not to mention one of the highest value-added tax (VAT) rates at 12 percent. Income is taxed at very high percentages and at very low thresholds or amounts and brackets.

Tax-free in Singapore

* To illustrate, a taxable income of more than P500,000 or around US$11,500 is not subject to income tax in Singapore, while Thailand imposes a tax rate of 10 percent. It’s 11 percent in Malaysia and 20 percent in Vietnam. For the same taxable income, the Philippines imposes 32 percent.

Another example: In the Philippines, a taxable income of between P140,000 and P250,000 is taxed P22,500 plus 25 percent of the excess of P140,000. On the other hand, a taxable income of P250,000 or US$5,700 is taxed at a low 2 percent in Malaysia, still 10 percent in Thailand and 15 percent in Indonesia.

Our neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) clearly feel that at certain income levels, more disposable cash or purchasing power must be left in the hands of taxpayers to enable them to lead good lives and provide for their families.

Teacher

In such countries, young people entering the workforce and starting family life can easily dream of saving up for their own home; buying a family car; planning their children’s education; saving up for a family vacation; plotting their retirement; or starting a small business that would help pay their bills.

Would the same hold true here? Let us see.

Take for instance, a married man who has built a long teaching career and currently holds a master teacher position in a public school in Bicol. He is his family’s breadwinner, while his wife takes care of their three children. He earns a monthly gross income of P36,000. He pays around P4,000 in monthly withholding tax that considers standard deductions on dependents.

This is on top of mandatory contributions to GSIS, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig—so-called “payroll taxes”—almost worth P3,600. Every month, he takes home P28,400. According to the 2009 Family Income and Expenditures Survey, the average expenditure of a family of five earning P36,000 is approximately P31,800. This means our teacher is short by nearly P4,000 a month to provide for his family.

Management professional
There is also a management professional with eight years experience who was promoted two years ago to a mid-level position in a food and beverage conglomerate. Her take-home pay is P43,000, giving P15,400 in monthly withholding taxes and almost P1,200 in mandatory contributions.

Monthly, she gives up P16,600 or almost 28 percent of income to the government. Because her gross monthly income is P60,000, she is taxed the highest rate of 32 percent—the same rate our tax system would ideally impose on the owner of the company she works for.

These cases illustrate the plight of our taxpayers. While the 1987 Constitution emphasizes that the effects of taxation be “uniform and equitable,” clearly they are not. Where the taxation system should be progressive, clearly the rates imposed are not based on the person’s ability to pay.

Keeping the highest tax bracket at P500,000 and above means that mid-level managers earning P55,000 to P60,000 a month would pay the same income tax rate as the Forbes 40—the list of the richest persons and families in the country.

‘Bracket creep’

The injustice is manifest. Worse, because the tax brackets do not have provisions for indexation or automatic adjustment every few years, at some point in the near future, even new employees will fall into this highest bracket.

This is the phenomenon called “bracket creep,” which Asian Institute of Management Prof. Ronald Mendoza explained as the situation where taxpayers who are not considered high-earning are already pushed into high tax brackets.

Mendoza said that at some point, bracket creep would lead to “fiscal drag” where people will not have any purchasing power left to contribute to the economy due to excessive taxation.

Leaving our current system untouched diminishes its progressive bent as more individual taxpayers—notably at the higher end of the income spectrum—are pushed into the same bracket as the richest taxpayers in the country.

Power to destroy

A US Supreme Court Justice once famously remarked that the power to tax is the power to destroy. In the Philippines, that may be what is happening. Upward mobility is destroyed by crippling income taxes. From the start, any attempt to raise one’s status in life—lift his boat so to speak—is scuttled.

And why would upward mobility be desirable?

According to a study conducted by former Secretary General Romulo Virola of the National Statistical Coordination Board, over 74.7 percent of the population or 14 million families comprise the lower class, while only 0.1 percent or 21,200 families constitute the upper class.

In fact, based on 2013 Forbes Asia computations, the wealth of the 50 richest Filipinos totaled P2.88 trillion, equivalent to a fourth of the country’s 2012 domestic gross product.

The remaining 25.2 percent fall within the “middle class,” or the 4.7 million families with five members and earning P328,000 to P4 million a year.

Dividends, stock options

Many of the rich often gain more wealth through dividends and stock options. Often it is through dividends and stock options, which are taxed at lower rates than income. The wealthy often have holding companies, too, which enjoy bigger tax deductions than families and individuals.

Often, the ultra-wealthy have corporations large enough to qualify for fiscal incentives, like tax holidays or cuts for chosen industries or investments.

At another extreme, minimum wage earners are exempt from paying income tax. So who is left? The middle class.

BIR data show that the majority or roughly 82 percent of the total collection from individual income taxes, amounting to P246 billion in 2013, comes from compensation-income earners. The bulk of this is automatically deducted from salaried professionals earning P150,000 to P800,000 a year.

Based on the Virola study, these individuals are the middle class.

Killing the goose

As far as individual income taxation is concerned, the salaried professional is the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. At current rates and brackets, we are killing the goose, while the eggs are not coming as quickly as they should.

In his “Politics,” Aristotle wrote that a city ought to be composed primarily of people with similar if not equal standing. He described these “middle classes” as a moderating force in society, given that their wealth was adequate to keep them from the extremism of a hungry poor or an indulgent rich.

At the rate things are going in the Philippines, the middle class is endangered. If the status quo remains, members of the class will continue to be pulled down into lower-income groups because they are pushed up into higher tax brackets.

Right time

Revenue Commissioner Henares says it is not the right time to reform the income tax system, but practically the whole country, including the Tax Management Association of the Philippines and BIR employees, will probably say it is.

Even the World Bank has joined such calls, recommending that the Philippines place a cap of 25 percent on the personal income tax rate, alongside efforts to broaden the tax base and make the overall tax system more efficient and equitable.

Recent controversies over the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program have made people more aware and critical of how government spends their money. The same should apply to how government collects this money.

The Department of Finance and the BIR have been quick to oppose any measure for income tax reduction, stressing that the country is still in deficit and any revenue loss will significantly affect government social services and programs.

However, a study shows that every peso decrease in income tax results in a Filipino family spending P50 more. We are talking about more than 21 million families gaining extra purchasing power.

Added spending

Taken together, that’s billions of pesos of added spending in the economy. Families will spend that money on items that surely generate more taxes, as VAT on goods and services for instance, not to mention the multiplier effects their consumption has on the economy.

It is not inconceivable to surmise that lower taxes could lead to greater compliance. Case in point: Russia replaced its three-bracket taxation system with a flat tax rate of 13 percent in 2001. Tax revenues increased in the following years, with real personal income tax collection growing by as much as 26 percent.

In 2007, Singapore lowered its highest individual income tax rate from 21 percent to 20 percent, one of the lowest in Asean. Between 2007 and 2012, revenues increased roughly 62 percent.

We lowered our corporate income tax (CIT) from 35 percent in 1997 to 32 percent in 2000. This resulted in increased collections from 1998’s P78 billion to P86 billion in 2000. Revenue continued to rise that by 2005, CIT collections almost doubled at P156 billion.

Imperative

Tax reforms are imperative. Ongoing discussions must revisit tax brackets and should lead to lower applicable tax rates. There must be room for periodic adjustments of threshold incomes to keep up with inflation.

Benjamin Franklin remarked that life’s two certainties are death and taxes. Little could he have foreseen the two happening simultaneously—death by taxes.

Likewise, the death of dreams, the death of upward mobility and the death of a more egalitarian society. Some might even say in jest, “Why not just kill me now?”

The good news is we do have a choice. Last time I checked, congressmen and senators still do listen to their constituents.

Other measures

In addition to our bill, two other measures to adjust tax brackets have been filed in the Senate by Senators Ralph Recto and Bam Aquino. Numerous income tax bills have also been proposed and are now referred to the House committee on ways and means chaired by Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo.

When one sees families struggling every single day to make ends meet, while public school teachers and other rank-and-file employees receive meager wages and are mired in debt, is it not time for tax reform? What is the point of a government growing richer while its young people and young families grow poorer by the day?

Shouldn’t the economic scales be balanced in favor of the vast majority of our people at some point?

Clearly, we’ve been going about things the wrong way.

Taxes don’t have to spell our death. Support tax reform.

(Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, is the author of Senate Bill No. 2149 that seeks to lower tax rates on income taxes.)

FROM PHILSTAR

People’s initiative vs ‘pork’ on By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 25, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Thousands of citizens from various sectors are expected to join rallies in Rizal Park and other parts of the country today to jumpstart a signature campaign for a people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system and other schemes in the national budget that allots lump-sum appropriations for lawmakers.

Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said a protest program and a signature drive would be held at the same time in Rizal Park.

“Groups and personalities who figured in the first ‘Million People March’ last year also helped organize this year’s event. The people’s initiative, a signup campaign to introduce a new law banning the pork barrel system, will be a new component of the Luneta action,” he said.

Apart from Bayan and #abolishpork, Scrap Pork Network, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Concerned Citizens Movement, Youth ACT Now, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, Church People’s Alliance Against Pork Barrel, Nationalist Movement, and various sectoral groups are also mobilizing for the event.

The people’s initiative aims to collect about five to six million signatures nationwide to demand the removal of all discretionary lump sum funds within or outside of the yearly national budget.

The rally, dubbed as “Stand Up Against All Pork,” will also highlight the first anniversary of the Million People March, wherein thousands of people gathered at the historic park amid the pork-barrel fund scandal.

Reyes said the Rizal Park rally is also “an occasion to register the people’s strongest opposition to Charter change and term extension and Aquino’s attacks on the judiciary to reverse the Supreme Court ruling on DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program).”

Musician Monet Silvestre, one of those who first amplified the call for the anti-pork rally last year, has composed a reggae jingle to help raise awareness.

Silvestre, part of the ‘80s musical group The Tux, is also the spokesperson for #abolishpork.

Various church groups will also join the mass action against the pork barrel system.

Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz will lead Catholic leaders, nuns and clergy in joining the protest rally that coincides with the celebration of National Heroes Day.

Dubbed as “Stand Up, Sign Up Against All Pork,” the rally in Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, will be held from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

* The gathering will push for the people’s initiative against the pork barrel also known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that congressmen and senators allocate to themselves.

Cruz said the bishops have initiated their own signature campaign against the pork barrel, which critics believe remain in the budget through other forms after the Supreme Court declared as illegal last year the lump-sum appropriations for lawmakers.

“I don’t know if other bishops will be in Luneta. But Archbishop (Jose) Palma is heading the anti-pork signature drive in Cebu,” said Cruz, a former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The signature campaign for the people’s initiative, which was endorsed by the CBCP, was launched in Cebu City last Saturday.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle joined rallyists in Rizal Park during the first anti-pork barrel protest last year.

For this year, however, it is not certain if the head of the country’s Catholic hierarchy will again join the event.

Tagle’s secretary Fr. Reggie Malicdem said the Rizal Park gathering is not the cardinal’s schedule.

Other religious groups participate

Over the weekend, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) have confirmed their participation in the event.

The NCCP said they would join the protest “to show our solidarity against corruption.”

The AMRSP, on the other hand, said they decided to join the rally to condemn “a system that is based on patronage and corruption.”

Schools under the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) led by its president Bro. Jun Erquiza will also join the event.

“I support any legislative move to pursue greater accountability and transparency on the part of our public officials and leaders especially in their use of public money and in the implementation of their tasks and responsibilities,” he said in a separate statement.

“I call on all reform-minded citizens to support this cause — first, by renewing personal contact with the poor and gaining insight into how these irregularities have hurt real people. Offenders should be punished,” he added.

‘Everyone can join’

Malacañang yesterday said everybody – friend or foe alike, including the 1.6 million government workers – are free to join today’s rally in Rizal Park, where critics of President Aquino are expected to show their strength.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in her interview over government-owned radio station dzRB, said government workers need not fear a backlash or sanctions from their bosses, following reports state employees plan to join the rallies to air their grievances against unfair policies of the administration.

She said the government employees are free to join the rally since it is a holiday today.

“We just hope that the rally will be orderly,” Valte said Saturday.

She said there have already been arrangements and security plans laid out by both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Metro Manila Development Authority about the rally in Manila to keep the traffic flow unhampered.

Cyclists against pork

In Cagayan, hundreds of cycling enthusiasts will pedal the 103 kilometers stretch from Tuguegarao to Aparri today to show their support for the abolition of pork barrel and similar political funding schemes.

Sherwin de Vera, one of the organizers of the “Padyak Kontra Pork,” said the cycling event is among the nationwide series of mass actions in support of the people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel.

Tuguegarao City Archbishop Sergio Utleg is expected to join the cycling protest.

1BAP party-list group Rep. Silvestre Bello III said he does not mind having the pork barrel abolished.

Bello said his ongoing scholarship and child-feeding program does not depend on the pork barrel but he relies on the sponsorship of big private corporations that have been supporting his projects.

The National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) would provide security for the signature drive for the people’s initiative against the pork barrel system at Rizal Park.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima ordered NCRPO chief Director Carmelo Valmoria to personally supervise the security coverage in the area.

“The PNP Command has directed the NCRPO to provide security coverage, public safety services and other necessary contingency measures for the projected multi-sectoral rally against pork barrel,” said Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office director.

Sindac pointed out that the NCRPO and the Manila Police District could activate its Task Force Manila Shield when needed.

Clean rally urged

An environmental watchdog appealed to rallyists to promote a clean and safe protest action as thousands of supporters are expected to assemble at Rizal Park for the anti-pork barrel rally today.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has declared its support for the people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system, appealed to fellow advocates for change to respect Rizal Park’s “no littering, no smoking” policy.

The group recalled that last year’s “Million People March,” which was also held at Luneta, drew commendations from green activists, netizens and park management for keeping trash to a minimum.

EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero said, “the Aug. 25 rally should duplicate, if not exceed, our collective environmental gain last year in terms of keeping Rizal Park and its vicinity garbage-free. Our patriotic struggle for zero corruption should not be detached from our quest for a zero waste society.”

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded all participants to put garbage into the proper bins and desist from smoking.

The group also advised rallyists not to explode firecrackers or burn protest props.

Lucero likewise appealed to participants to put their banners on poles, not on plants and trees; and abstain from any acts of violence and vandalism.

Other issues as well

Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday urged organizers of the people’s initiative to push for other controversial issues, aside from the pork barrel.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said those campaigning for people’s initiative should include Freedom of Information (FOI) and other measures unlikely to be approved by Congress.

“If they will do this national initiative or signature campaign, they should include everything. Make a law that will cover all these measures,” Brillantes said.

The People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel (PIAP) has reportedly gathered 5,000 signatures during the launch the other day.

Brillantes said that there are various controversial bills such as FOI that are strongly backed by the public but has not yet been passed by Congress.

“Let us not limit it only with DAP and PDAF. They should also include other controversial issues that they don’t expect to be passed by Congress,” Brillantes said.

Under the Constitution, legislation may be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of registered voters.

The Comelec is tasked to call and supervise the conduct of initiatives.

Brillantes said a consolidated people’s initiative should be undertaken to save time, effort and funds.

“It will not be an easy process. This has never happened before. Doing a national initiative will really take time,” he pointed out.

He said budget is required not just for the verification of signatures, which will also take a lot of time, but also for the plebiscite for it to become a law.

The Comelec is ready to supervise a people’s initiative if given the funding, he said.

“We can do it as soon as possible as long as they give us the budget. For now, we don’t have the budget for any people’s initiative,” Brillantes admitted. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Raymund Catindig

FROM THE INQUIRER

Palace asks: What pork? No such thing in budget–Abad By Christian V. Esguerra |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:30 am | Monday, August 25th, 2014


On the eve of a massive protest to be held at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday, Aug. 25, Malacañang on Sunday maintained that the graft-ridden pork barrel had been scrapped. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–What pork? Define pork.

On the eve of a massive protest to be held at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday, Malacañang on Sunday maintained that the graft-ridden pork barrel had been scrapped.

“We disagree that the pork barrel system remains in the 2015 NEP (National Expenditure Program) submitted by the administration to Congress,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told the Inquirer.

In a text message, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he could “categorically” declare that the pork barrel no longer existed in the present budgeting system.

Various groups are staging a massive protest against the pork barrel at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday, a year after Filipinos, angered at learning from a series of Inquirer reports that legislators connived with a businesswoman to embezzle P10 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), tried a Million People March in Luneta to demand the abolition of the pork barrel.

The rally, which had no leaders, failed to achieve the million-people objective, with the participants numbering only 85,000 to 100,000, according to Manila police. But the message hit home: President Aquino abolished the PDAF and ordered a line-item budgeting system to rid the budget of lump sums whose expenditure requires endorsement by lawmakers.

The PDAF, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, was a pork barrel that financed pet projects of legislators. But its abolition did not really deprive lawmakers of a source of kickbacks and patronage funds, as they continued to be allowed projects to be paid for with public funds under the new budgeting system.

Monday’s protesters aim to gather 6 million signatures to support a proposal for the abolition of the pork barrel. They are taking the campaign across the country to get 10 million signatures to support the people’s initiative bill that would scrap pork in budgeting.

Massive lump sums

*
The NEP submitted to Congress showed massive lump sums under what the administration calls Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP).

The Department of the Interior and Local Government alone had P1.37 billion, while the Department of Agriculture had P1.7 billion.

Another lump-sum item worth P2.78 billion was placed under the Local Government Support Fund.

A P5.5-million budget for Mahatao town, Bataan province, was listed as “project to be determined.”

Another P12.5-million project in Tingloy town, Batangas province, was still “to be determined.”

Still another project “to be determined” was for Cabuyao town in Laguna province and it was worth P7.5 million.

On Aug. 11, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio disclosed purported audio recordings of closed-door discussions on the House committee on appropriations confirming the restoration in this year’s budget of P20.7 billion in pork deleted from last year’s budget after the abolition of the PDAF.

Tinio submitted the recordings as part of the evidence supporting a complaint for the impeachment of President Aquino.
Some of Aquino’s allies in the House said they would file an ethics complaint against Tinio for disclosing confidential information obtained from a closed-door session.

Under fire for the lump-sum appropriations, the Department of Budget and Management uploaded a list on its website detailing how the P20.8-billion fund under the GPBP would be spent.

Pork defined

Abad, the brains behind the Disbursement Acceleration Program that the Supreme Court struck down on July 1, questioned how the protesters defined “pork barrel” in the people’s initiative bill.

“First of all, the group has to define what it means by pork barrel,” he said.

Citing the Supreme Court ruling, Abad said pork barrel referred to “lump sums in the budget that require postenactment intervention of legislators during budget execution, except in the exercise of their oversight function.”

“Do they accept that definition? If not, how do they define pork barrel?” Abad asked.

“If the objective of the campaign is not clear, how will the people know what they’re voting on? It’s easy to say abolish pork by way of a campaign slogan. But what that really means has to be clear,” he said.

The people’s initiative bill defines pork barrel as “a lump-sum public fund with sole discretion given to the President, legislator or group of legislators, or any public officer” on how it will be spent.

“The exercise of discretion by public officers relates to the allocation, release or use of these public funds, the identification or selection of projects, implementers or beneficiaries, or any or a combination of or all of these,” it adds.

In a people’s initiative, the goal is to collect at least 5.2 million signatures representing at least 10 percent of registered voters nationwide for the bill to become law. The number should also represent at least 3 percent of voters in each legislative district.

‘So broad’

Valte said the way some of the protesters defined pork barrel was “so broad” that it covered even “funds that are obviously not pork, like the calamity and contingency funds.”

“The fact that pertinent laws allow some measure of discretion in the disbursement of these funds within set parameters automatically qualifies as pork by the definition set by these groups is unrealistic and not cognizant of the flexibility allowed by the Constitution,” Valte said.

“A review of the budgets submitted by the Aquino administration to Congress shows a systematic effort to reform the budget,” she said.

Valte pointed to the proposed P2.6-trillion budget for 2015, which “disaggregated lump sums as far as practicable without adversely affecting [the] government’s ability to respond to the people’s needs in extraordinary or unforeseen circumstances.”

Malacañang earlier justified the inclusion of a P501-million lump-sum item in next year’s budget—the Special Purpose Fund—saying that doing so was a “best management practice,” which was also done by private companies.

“Based on established management practice, it is customary that a certain portion of the annual budget is set aside for contingency expenditures that are essentially variable and not amenable to precise determination at the time of budget preparation,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.–With a report from Inquirer Research

10M signatures to wipe out ‘pork’ By Gil C. Cabacungan |Philippine Daily Inquirer9:11 pm | Sunday, August 24th, 2014


Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The different groups behind the people’s initiative campaign to wipe out the pork barrel tradition in Congress are aiming to get as many as 10 million autographs or nearly double the minimum threshold needed to make this proposal cemented into law.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the People’s Congress would put up “signature stations” in schools, public markets, churches, and town plazas nationwide through coordinating committees located in the provinces.

In a radio interview, Colmenares said that after the Visayas leg was launched in Cebu Saturday, the Luzon leg would kick off on Monday (Aug. 25) to be followed by Mindanao in either Cagayan de Oro or Davao within the week.

“We are targeting up to 10 million signatures to have a buffer because many things could happen; the Comelec (Commission on Elections) might remove some of the signatures. By December 31, the last day of this year, we hope to get the minimum 10 percent (of voters) plus buffer. At least a 1-million buffer is good enough for me,” said Colmenares.

With 52 million voters registered in the 2010 elections and at least 200,000 voters added since then, the group has pegged the compliance rate at 6 million signatures.

“We have to do this to prevent the redefinition of savings every time the GAA (General Appropriations Act) is filed. The insertion of lump sums or pork barrel in the budget will have a penalty of 6 years and one day to 10 years imprisonment and will make up for the lack of a law prohibiting pork barrel,” said Colmenares. “This is the cleansing process we need to move out of the tradition of political patronage.”

* He cited clandestine attempts by the administration to hatch deals with lawmakers to continue the old tradition of allocating funds to pet projects of lawmakers in the budget even after the Supreme Court had already declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.

“This trial of the (pork barrel scam) senators could take at least five years. If this bill is passed, you don’t need too many documents or whistleblowers because if one is caught inserting or approving pork barrel fund in the (budget) or intervened in the realignment of a project or choosing a contractor, the minimum will be six years imprisonment,” said Colmenares. “This is abolishing pork barrel, criminalizing pork barrel directly.”

He said his group had to resort to a people’s initiative to put in place an anti-pork barrel law because Bayan Muna attempt to do it through legislation last year “never reached first base.”

“We are very fortunate that the 1987 Constitution allows for a people’s alternative if Congress refuses to pass a bill sought by its citizens. Even the President cannot veto this initiative,” said Colmenares.

He said the groups behind the people’s initiative would not bother asking the President to back up the move because he has already declared his bias to retaining this pork barrel mentality. “He probably needs the pork barrel because his candidates for 2016 are not doing so well,” said Colmenares.

FROM THE TRIBUNE

CoA asked to produce PDAF audit under Noy Written by Tribune Wires Monday, 25 August 2014 00:00


NANCY BINAY

Where are the Commission on Audit (CoA) reports on the use of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Malampaya Funds under the administration of President Aquino?

Sen. Nancy Binay reiterated her call yesterday for the CoA to immediately release the full audit reports of several controversial government funds which have been linked to questionable transactions, as well as corruption under the present regime.

All the CoA had thus far released is a Special Report on PDAF covering 2007 to 2009 which was selective in targeting mainly opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. who are all now detained on allegations of plunder mainly based on the CoA report.

Binay said that it has already been more than a year since the probe on the PDAF scam and the expose on alleged illegal releases of the Malampaya Funds but until now CoA has not given the public even a summary of its audit report covering the years 2010 to 2013.

“It has been a year since the reports were being awaited but it seems CoA to take any action. Fairness dictates that the state audit firm release even a summary if they can’t produce the full audit report on the PDAF (under Aquino),” Binay said. “CoA also has not produced an audit of controversial projects under DAP from 2011 to 2013,” she added.

Based on records, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) continued to release funds from PDAF, DAP and Malampaya from 2010 to 2013 even after state auditors questioned their use or the way DBM (Department of Budget and Management), legislators and implementing agencies handled the funds.

“The CoA is leaving everything hanging and has been issuing promises and press releases. It would be prudent for COA to immediately release their findings, including other NGOs (non government organizations) which took part in the PDAF and Malampaya deals,” Binay said.

The Supreme Court had declared PDAF and Palace acts creating the DAP as unconstitutional, while much of the P900 million Malampaya fund allegedly went to bogus NGOs linked to administration solons and Janet Lim-Napoles.

She noted that while the PDAF and DAP have been in the news for some time, the only time people hear about the Malampaya fund is through the occasional report in the news while there has been no disclosure about the PDAF from 2010 to 2013.

Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada had even criticized the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Palace ally Sen. Teofisto Guingona for sitting on his demand for the start of an incisive probe on the use of the Malampaya Funds.

“It is good that there is a list of recipients for DAP, at least we can see who benefited from it but the PDAF from 2010 until 2013 has none up to this time,” she said.

* The lady senator also urged the state auditing body to be fair and objective in the release of the reports and not use it to discredit some individuals.

“I just hope COA will not be partial coming from the PDAF and DAP hearings. We know that the COA was a beneficiary of DAP, what political party was prominent in the disbursement of the DAP?” Binay said.

“Hopefully the release of an updated report on the PDAF will not be the same as what happened in the release of the results of the special audit report covering 2007 to 2009. I look forward to all involved to be revealed and not only selected personalities,” the senator added.

The lady senator issued the challenge after the COA said that it will be conducting a special audit on the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall building Two, which city officials maintain is not overpriced.

Abakada Rep. Jonathan De la Cruz had said that not a single audit report for the period 2010 to 2012 were made by CoA despite the period also being tainted with anomalous transaction which could overshadow the alleged scam involving Janet Lim – Napoles.

De la Cruz added that the result of the special audit report for the pork disbursement from 20017 to 2009 as released by the CoA, contains glaring discrepancies with the results of regular audit report.

Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay also earlier said people could easily spot if there is a political agenda hidden in the filing of plunder cases against the three senators should the filing of the case stop at the non-allies of the administration, given the findings of the Commission on Audit (CoA) there are almost two hundred lawmakers accountable in the questionable disbursement of their PDAF.

“The decision of the Ombudsman to file the case against the three senators is a test of the fairness and trustworthiness of our legal system,” Binay said.

He added that the judiciary should not be swayed by any pressure from any political groups and assert its independence and not be selective in its pursuit of justice.

“The case will also test if the drive for reforms will be blind to political motives,” said Binay.

“If it stops with the filing of the plunder cases against three senators who are not political allies and confines itself to the Napoles case, it will create the impression of being selective, and that political partisanship – not justice – is the sole motivation behind these charges,” he stressed as he noted that CoA, in ia comprehensive report it released last rear, mentioned the names of other legislators and other fake NGOs.

“We hope the concerned government agencies will act on these findings with the same determination and focus displayed in the Napoles case,” said Binay.

Seditious By Benjamin Diokno Written by Tribune Wires Monday, 25 August 2014 00:00

Why would President Aquino III seek to weaken the Supreme Court? Has he gone mad? He already made Congress an adjunct of the Presidency by usurping the congressional power of the purse.

 Shouldn’t he be working for the strengthening of political institutions as a way of making the country’s budding democracy stronger and enduring?

If Mr. Aquino was truly committed to a system of government that is different from the authoritarian regime that the 1987 Constitution sought to replace, he should embrace, not fight, the Supreme Court decision that ruled his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional.

The Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) was right when it described as “seditious or treasonous” President Aquino’s motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider its unanimous ruling that the DAP is unconstitutional.

“To initiate or encourage any measure to subvert or undermine or spoil the enforcement of the unanimous decision of the Court applying and interpreting the Constitution is seditious or treasonous. It is a mutiny against the Constitution,” Philconsa warned.

Why should Mr. Aquino try to weaken the Judiciary, and consequently strengthen the Presidency, when the Philippinepresident is unquestionably already very powerful. In fact, the Philippine president is stronger than the President of the United States, the mightiest militarily and most democratic country on Planet Earth.

In a tripartite system of government – the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary – the President, representing the Executive Department, is primus inter pares (a first among equals).

The President is the Commander-in-Chief of 129,780-strong armed forces of the Philippines. He commands a 196,245 police officers and men of the Philippine National Police. In most countries, peace and order is a local concern and thus implemented by local authorities. In the Philippines, the Philippine National Police is national in scope and hence under the direct command and supervision of the President.

The President supervises all local government units – the 81 provinces, 144 cities, 1,490 municipalities, and 42,028 barangays.

The President is the country’s chief executive officer (CEO). He is the boss of some 1.2 million civil servants. Compare that with Congress’ 6,084 workers (one half of one percent of the entire bureaucracy, and with the Judiciary’s 25,247 justices and court employees, or about 2.1 percent of the entire bureaucracy.

The President commands an army and a national police. He controls the biggest chunk of government resources.

Remember, he is just one individual exercising all these awesome powers. He can be a virtual dictator within the Executive Department. He can decide quickly and implement such decision promptly.

By contrast, the other co-equal branches of government – Congress and the Supreme Court – are collegial bodies.

Decision-making is slow, oftentimes tedious, and decisions are arrived at through consensus. Notice, for example, how long it took the High Court to decide on the DAP issue.

Once a law is passed, Congress has no way of compelling the President to implement it; hence, the existence of many unfunded and unimplemented laws. Unless some concerned individuals or groups bring the case to the Supreme Court, there is no way such unimplemented laws may be enforced. Congress has no army of its own.

But even if the Supreme Court rules against the President, the High Court has no way of compelling the President to implement its decision. The Supreme Court, too, has no army of its own.

That is why honoring and respecting the rule of law is expected of all public officials. No less than the President has sworn to “uphold and defend” the Constitution of the Philippines.

* Relative to the President, Congress is weaker because of its bicameral structure. In order to control Congress, all that the President has to do is control one of the two Houses of Congress. Mr. Aquino controls both Houses.

ON BUDGET MAKING AND IMPLEMENTATION, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE US PRESIDENT

On budget making and implementation, the Philippine president is more powerful than the US president. First, the Philippine president has line-item veto power. Through it, the president may line out specific items in the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) and then sign the modified bill into law.

By comparison, the US President does not have line-item veto power. US Presidents have been asking for line-item veto power for a long time. It was in 1876, during President Grant’s term of office, that the line-item veto power was first raised before Congress. In 1996, the US Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act, which then President Clinton signed into law.

Several senators challenged it and raised the issue before the US Supreme Court, which found the law unconstitutional.

The High Court ruled that the law violates the Presentment and Bicameral Clauses of the Constitution (Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2 and 3) that vests Congress with “all legislative powers.” Moreover, the “Non-delegation Doctrine” holds that one branch can’t transfer its constitutional powers to another branch or entity.

Second, in implementing the budget the Philippine president is not constrained by an Impoundment Control Act (ICA 1974), which the US president has to face. The ICA 1974 restricts the President’s power to impound appropriations.

The ICA 1974 gave the US President the power to both delay the expenditure of funds (deferral authority) and to cancel funds (rescission authority). But, to rescind funds, the President needs congressional concurrence within 45 days. In practice, Congress has ignored most Presidential requests to cancel funds.

Third, under existing Philippine budget rules, the budget of the previous year is automatically reenacted should Congress fail to approve the ensuing budget before the start of the fiscal year. Hence, there does not exist any threat that government operations will come to a halt should Congress delay the passage of a new general appropriations act.

In reality, Congress may not hold the President hostage by threatening to stall budget approval. In the US, the threat of stalling the approval of the budget (s) [since the US Congress approves several disparate budgets], and hence closing down part of government, is all too real. It has happened before and it could happen again in the future.

The US President is subject to ‘blackmail’ by an uncooperative Congress; the Philippine President is not since the Constitution provides for the automatic reenactment of the previous budget pending approval of a new budget.

All the foregoing discussions point to one indisputable fact: the powers of the Philippine President vis-à-vis Congress and the Judiciary are, right now, quite awesome.

The Philippine president’s budget formulation and implementation powers are even more formidable than those of the US President.

Hence, Mr. Aquino’s obsession to weaken the Supreme Court, and by implication strengthen the powers of the President, is at best, quizzical, and at worst, insane.

In his final days in Malacanang, Mr. Aquino should seek to rebuild and strengthen, rather than weaken, political institutions.

In addition, he should spend his limited time solving the more crucial social and economic problems like hunger, poverty, unemployment, and the crumbling public infrastructure.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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