EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM THE MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHT

EDITORIAL: SUBTLE AS A MEAT CLEAVER
[The question boils down to how much of a risk the ruling party is willing to take by fielding a party mate and betting that his numbers will catch up in time for election day 2016. For those who are counting on sentiment to make a difference, the choice might arrive like a meat cleaver and with as much subtlety.]


June 24, 2015 --- THE other significant number in the most recent nationwide surveys, aside from that of new frontrunner Senator Grace Poe, is the one that shows Secretary Mar Roxas still trailing Vice President Jejomar Binay by double digits in both results.
Topmost in the minds of administration party members is whether Roxas can beat Binay one-on-one and the answer to that question has to be a big factor in determining if the endorsement of President Aquino is at all forthcoming. The Vice President’s ratings are decidedly on the decline and yet what he lost by way of popular support went elsewhere but the man the President has tagged as his top choice for his successor come 2016. Which brings forth the subject of Poe. READ MORE...

ALSO OPINION: BAUTISTA NOT FIT TO HEAD COMELEC


by Amado Macasaet Any man with a modicum of self respect would not accept any position in government after failing a psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council to all aspirants for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The courage, in fact gall, to seek the position is by itself a sign of aiming too high without examining whether he is more fit by knowledge of law, experience and psychological preparedness. After the Department of Finance was notified of an annual stockholders meeting of POTC, it issued a proxy for Karen G. Singson at that time the Department of Finance Chief Privatization Officer and to Andy Bautista. By what appears to be shallow manipulation facilitated by Richard Amurao, Bautista became chair of POTC and chairman of POTC. It never occurred to Amurao or Bautista that the latter’s concurrent positions as chair of POTC and PCGG created the possibility of colluding with himself. Bautista was in effective control of his acts as POTC chair and also chair of PCGG. In the event of a conflict Bautista gave himself the unheard of facility of deciding which Bautista should be supported: Bautista as PCGG chair or Bautista as chair of POTC. He had the best of both worlds. How does this shameful act relate to his failure to pass the psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council? Let someone ask a competent psychologist. He or she will provide the correct answer. READ MORE...

ALSO: BINAY WAS NEVER AQUINO’S ‘FRIEND’


by Ducky Paredes The President should have realized, from Day One that he was taking in as a “friend of the family” someone who was not at all like his family. In fact, as soon as Binay was given Makati by President Cory, Binay transformed from being a member of Mabini, a group of high-minded human right lawyers, into a Makati politician in the mold of those who were anti-corruption Cory’s main enemies. “The Vice President, in opening the next chapter of his political life, has chosen a path that will define him not only as an official but as a person. For our part, we note his past service to the Aquino Cabinet. We note furthermore that in the five years of service to President Aquino, he has never spoken ill of the governance policies of the President,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda. “Still, he has made the unfortunate choice to commence his presidential run with statements that he could have otherwise discussed with the President as a Cabinet member but chose not to,” he added. I disagree. Binay is acting exactly as one would expect of politicians who have no respect for Presidents who are foolish enough to declare that they are on a 'daang matuwid' and who will not enrich themselves in office. Typically, without entertaining questions on the allegations of corruption against him unanswered, Binay described the Aquino administration as “numb and a failure” in addressing the needs of the people. READ FULL COLUMN FROM THE BEGINNING...

ALSO: FILIPINO VOTERS KNOW HOW TO SPOT GOOD LEADERSHIP


by Ellen Tordesillas 
AT first glance, the result of Pulse Asia’s nationwide survey conducted last May 30 to June 5 showing Vice President Jejomar Binay being the most trusted public official even as there are less and less number of people who want to vote for him for president in the May 2016 elections seem contradictory and confusing. Reading the explanation of analysts, however, show that Filipinos know how to distinguish between a single good act and their expectations from a president. That reflects either a high level of political awareness or low level of expectations from leaders. Binay, who is the subject of a long-running senate investigation on the alleged overpriced Makati Building Parking 2, scored a high 58 percent approval rating (up from 46 percent last March) and 57 percent trust rating (from 42 percent last March). President Aquino came second with 54 percent approval rating, an increase of 16 percentage points from last March’s 38 percent. His trust rating increased from 36 percent to 50 percent. But in the same survey, asked if they would vote for Binay for elections were held today, only 22 percent said they would, down from 29 percent last. It was Sen. Grace Poe who got the highest endorsement from respondents with 30 percent, posting a remarkable 16 percent increase from last March survey results. Political analyst Earl Parreno explained that “In the approval and trust questions, they are looking at what the public official has done so far in his role in the government.” READ MORE...

ALSO: WHAT SETS AQUINO APART FROM PAST PRESIDENTS?


by NESTOR MATA
WHAT sets President Noynoy apart from past presidents of our country is his obvious fathomable ignorance about many important national and international issues facing the nation today, particularly the dire implications of his proposal for a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” (BBL), his mishandling of the dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, and his continuing threats to mangle the Constitution which would jeopardize our democracy. First of all, Aquino seems unaware that his dream of peace in strife-torn Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago will become a horrible nightmare, if he were to persist in the passage by Congress of his draft of the BBL, with all its insidious doubts on constitutionality. Once approved, as legal and geopolitical experts warned, it will lead to more conflicts in the southern region. Not only this, Aquino is so gullible that he fell for the “smoke-and-mirrors” trick” of the MILF during the “ceremonial decommissioning of MILF’s combatants and surrender of their 75 firearms” in a Sultan Kudarat town last week. “We are not speaking of just one, two or a dozen weapons,” he rejoiced. “These are some of the highest-grade weapons, these are not outmoded units. These are modern firearms.” Alas, an examination of the photos by military and other arms experts which were released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process showed that nearly half of the rifles have brown-colored stocks, or the rifles’ bodies which house the barrel and firing mechanisms. They pointed out that these are wooden stocks used in World War I and II rifles, and a third of the arms all belong to a museum of old military arms.” In other words, the MILF turned-in weapons were old or unserviceable, something that a gun-lover like Aquino failed to see. READ MORE...

ALSO: GLARING EVIDENCE OF TAX CHEATING


by Amado P. Macasaet
The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry is making too much noise about ways to stamp out smuggling. The federation ignores the specific case of undervaluation of tobacco imports by Mighty Corp, an old cigarette maker. It refuses to look beyond its nose. The Bureau of Customs has in its record the company pays only 20 percent of the world average price of the leaf. Therefore, Mighty Corp avoids paying tariff on 80 percent of its tobacco imports. How customs openly allowed this under valuation does not sit with its oft-repeated declaration it has waged a war against illicit trade. The price of the imports is supposed to be based on what customs call “blue book” which lists prices of nearly all items for export. Equally to blame is the Bureau of Internal Revenue for refusing to verify the truth or falsity of findings of market researches by A.C. Nielsen and Oxford Economics of London showing Mighty does not declare all of its cigarette production to the BIR. The research reports could have been verified if the BIR did its duty to compare the capacity of the machines and the volume of cigarettes it produces. The fact that the company bought new equipment to produce more cigarettes is proof its capacity is fully utilized. The fact that the volume declared to the BIR is smaller than actual production is unquestionable proof the company is cheating on specific tax. READ MORE...

ALSO: PSYCHO TESTS


by Amado P. Macasaet 
We claimed here Andy Bautista is not fit as new chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) because he flunked the psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council to all aspirants for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. President Aquino made a more serious mistake when he appointed Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno as chief justice. She too flunked the psycho test given by the same JBC after Senator Juan Ponce Enrile masterfully presided over the impeachment trial that yanked out then C.J. Renato Corona. The “mistake” of appointing Mrs. Sereno as Chief Justice may no longer be corrected. Failing a psycho test is not a ground for impeachment. If asking a peer to give up his business class seat in a plane ride to Cebu so her driver can sit with her, Chief Justice Sereno might have shown that failing a psycho test has a downside. She gave undue favor to her bodyguard at the expense of a peer. Would she have done so if she passed the test? The question is not exactly stupid but cannot find any acceptable answer except the fact the particular act smacked of arrogance and abuse. The lesson here is the uselessness of giving psycho tests for aspirants to become members of the Highest Court. It is not a ground not to appoint an aspirant who did not pass the test. My own interpretation is both President Aquino and Mrs. Sereno made a mistake that may have some connection with passing or failing the test. The President should have considered how the most senior associate justice would feel if he is denied the chance to become Chief Justice because Mrs. Sereno will serve as head magistrate for almost 20 years. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

EDITORIAL: SUBTLE AS A MEAT CLEAVER

June 24, 2015 --- THE other significant number in the most recent nationwide surveys, aside from that of new frontrunner Senator Grace Poe, is the one that shows Secretary Mar Roxas still trailing Vice President Jejomar Binay by double digits in both results.

Topmost in the minds of administration party members is whether Roxas can beat Binay one-on-one and the answer to that question has to be a big factor in determining if the endorsement of President Aquino is at all forthcoming.

The Vice President’s ratings are decidedly on the decline and yet what he lost by way of popular support went elsewhere but the man the President has tagged as his top choice for his successor come 2016.

Which brings forth the subject of Poe.

READ MORE...

Early attempts to create doubts about her qualifications by way of negative insinuations about her residency and citizenship have simply slid off the Senator like water off a duck. Some said it even helped earn her public sympathy when her critics made her an underdog of sorts.

The public simply listened to her advocacies for a transparent, honest and efficient government and many of them chose to believe even if her lines were far from new.

Her surging numbers certainly are getting harder to ignore with the moment of choice getting well nigh for President Aquino and the Liberal Party.

The question boils down to how much of a risk the ruling party is willing to take by fielding a party mate and betting that his numbers will catch up in time for election day 2016.

For those who are counting on sentiment to make a difference, the choice might arrive like a meat cleaver and with as much subtlety. – PT.


BAUTISTA NOT FIT TO HEAD COMELEC Submitted by Amado P. Macasaet on June 24, 2015


by Amado P. Macasaet

Any man with a modicum of self respect would not accept any position in government after failing a psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council to all aspirants for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The courage, in fact gall, to seek the position is by itself a sign of aiming too high without examining whether he is more fit by knowledge of law, experience and psychological preparedness.

After the Department of Finance was notified of an annual stockholders meeting of POTC, it issued a proxy for Karen G. Singson at that time the Department of Finance Chief Privatization Officer and to Andy Bautista. By what appears to be shallow manipulation facilitated by Richard Amurao, Bautista became chair of POTC and chairman of POTC.

It never occurred to Amurao or Bautista that the latter’s concurrent positions as chair of POTC and PCGG created the possibility of colluding with himself. Bautista was in effective control of his acts as POTC chair and also chair of PCGG.

In the event of a conflict Bautista gave himself the unheard of facility of deciding which Bautista should be supported: Bautista as PCGG chair or Bautista as chair of POTC. He had the best of both worlds.

How does this shameful act relate to his failure to pass the psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council? Let someone ask a competent psychologist. He or she will provide the correct answer.

READ MORE...

Ignoring all that, Bautista conveniently forgot there is a prohibition against a state official holding two positions given by government. Bautista’s case is weird because his two positions complemented each other.

If President Aquino did not know about the failure of Bautista to hurdle the JBC test the members of his search committee should be fired. But then, knowing the often felt impulsiveness of the President, it is entirely possible he did not consult the committee before appointing Bautista chairman of the Comelec.

Bautista is a law dean.

He has other “faults” that betray his true character. He stuck to his position as PCGG chairman and chair of POTC like a stamp sticks to the envelope. He defied lawful orders, one of which was the opinion of the Secretary of Justice saying PCGG has lost authority to be involved in matters of management and representation with respect to POTC and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Philcomsat.

The loss of authority resulted from the delayed transfer of the government’s 35 percent share in POTC to the Department of Finance which officially became the custodian of the asset. Therefore, the government, specifically the Department of Finance acquired the right to nominate state representatives to POTC, which we will repeat was illegally sequestered.

The PCGG or Bautista held on to the 40 percent share surrendered by Jose Y. Campos to the PCGG saying he was keeping them in the name of two companies for Marcos and his family.

The compromise settlement approved by the Supreme Court reduced the shares to 35 percent. Five percent was awarded to Potenciano Ilusorio. If the PCGG had recognized the state’s ownership of 35 percent, not 40 percent, it would have lost tenuous control of the company to its beneficial owners.

It should not take a lawyer like Bautista not to exercise rights over the five percent share that cannot be sequestered as it was lawfully acquired by Ilusorio. The compromise settlement was approved by President Ramos and sanctified by the Supreme Court in a final ruling.

For this reason alone, the Commission on Appointments should not confirm Bautista’s nomination. There is a mountain of official records about how he violated lawful orders regarding how he wanted to stay as chairman of Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp.

In obvious recognition of this fact, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in an opinion written on Feb. 25, 2015 “the PCGG has lost authority to be involved in matters of management and representation with respect to POTC and its wholly-owned subsidiary Philcomsat.”

It bears no explanation that as a result of the transfer of the shares to the DOF, the PCGG automatically lost its authority to designate nominees to the board of POTC and its subsidiaries. The right was transferred to the national government, specifically the Department of Finance, the official custodian.

It may be this failure to make the test that encourages Bautista to do what he wants, ignoring the consequences — legal and otherwise — of his actions.

The Executive Order creating the PCGG specifically provides due process must be observed. The owners of the enterprise proposed to be sequestered must be given a chance to explain.

In addition to that the sequestration order must have the signature and concurrence of two PCGG commissioners. The sequestration order against POTC had only one signature, that of Ramon Diaz.

Therefore the sequestration of POTC is legally flawed as pointed out repeatedly by its beneficial stockholders. Bautista and the PCGG commissioners before him closed their eyes to this fact.

Nobody saw the possibility of Bautista, chairman of POTC and of the PCGG, colluding with himself. As chair of POTC, Bautista was effectively controlling himself in his capacity as chair of the PCGG.

Tells a lot of a man.

The five percent is a swing vote that gave PCGG tenuous majority control of POTC, a company that was illegally sequestered.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government adopted a resolution that relinquished to the Department of Finance the 35 percent share of the state in POTC. Bautista, at that time chairman of the PCGG, refused to comply. In fact, he insisted the state owns 40 percent of POTC.

This is a direct result of the transfer of the 35 percent POTC share written out in the name of the Republic of the Philippines from the PCGG to the Department of Finance which became the official custodian of the asset.


BINAY WAS NEVER AQUINO’S ‘FRIEND’ Submitted by Ducky Paredes on June 26, 2015


by Ducky Paredes

NOW that Vice President Jejomar Binay has declared himself as head of the opposition in the 2016 national and local elections, does this mean that those against the government share his guilt in the cases of graft and corruption that Binay is accused of? It is possible since what he will be using in his campaign to succeed as the next President comes from his loot.

“I’m Jojo Binay,” he said “I’m proud to be a real Filipino in heart and mind. I will be with you for better or for worse, and now will lead the opposition,” Binay said at the Coconut Palace in Pasay City.

In his speech, Binay vowed to offer the Filipino people a compassionate and effective government. But certainly not an honest one.

”We should have a government which listens and have real concerns especially to the poor,” he added.

Binay denounced what he says is the selective justice of the Aquino administration and criticized the apparent difference between the treatment of the crooked opposition versus the honest ones..

The Vice President complained that while he and his family were being vilified, those allied with the ruling party lies have gone unpunished.

“This is not justice for the majority, particularly the poor,” Binay said.

He said this “injustice” motivates him further in pursuing the presidency.

The Vice President declared he would not back out as presidential candidate.

“I’m not withdrawing to any fight,” he said.

Binay said he quit his Cabinet posts after serving for five years as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and presidential assistant on overseas workers’ concerns, because he was unwilling to allow the disparaging of his successful pro-poor programs when he was still mayor of Makati.

Binay said no one–not even political propaganda--would stop him from seeking the country’s highest position.

A Palace spokesman on Wednesday declined to say if Binay’s break from the government would strain relations between his family and that of President Benigno Aquino III.

“I do not wish to speculate on a matter that is personal between the two families,” said deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte, in a text message.

Well, I can and, as I have written before, as one who served in her administration, if President Cory were still around, she would have told her son, the President, to kick Binay out very early on.

***

The President should have realized, from Day One that he was taking in as a “friend of the family” someone who was not at all like his family. In fact, as soon as Binay was given Makati by President Cory, Binay transformed from being a member of Mabini, a group of high-minded human right lawyers, into a Makati politician in the mold of those who were anti-corruption Cory’s main enemies.

“The Vice President, in opening the next chapter of his political life, has chosen a path that will define him not only as an official but as a person. For our part, we note his past service to the Aquino Cabinet.

We note furthermore that in the five years of service to President Aquino, he has never spoken ill of the governance policies of the President,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

“Still, he has made the unfortunate choice to commence his presidential run with statements that he could have otherwise discussed with the President as a Cabinet member but chose not to,” he added.

I disagree. Binay is acting exactly as one would expect of politicians who have no respect for Presidents who are foolish enough to declare that they are on a daang matuwid and who will not enrich themselves in office. Typically, without entertaining questions on the allegations of corruption against him unanswered, Binay described the Aquino administration as “numb and a failure” in addressing the needs of the people.

Binay declared he would now lead the opposition, saying he was seeing the hand of the administration in the moves to hit and harass him and his family when reforms under Aquino’s daang matuwid (straight path) policy could not be felt, especially by the poor.

This only means that Binay is assured that he has succeeded in fooling the poor into regarding him as their new champion, even as he plans to become even richer when he becomes our President.

***

Graft allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and 19 others in connection with the alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Science High School are still undergoing preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“The investigation of the Makati Science Building [overpricing] is still ongoing. As of today, no preventive suspension order has been issued in the case,” the Ombudsman’s office announced.

A plunder complaint was filed last year against the Vice President and his son with the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P1.33-billion Makati Science High School Building.

Incumbent and former city officials as well as officers of Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. and Infiniti Corp. were included in the complaint filed by Renato Bondal.

Bondal alleged that the project was overpriced by P862 million.

A five-man investigating team has recommended the filing of criminal cases including charges of graft and falsification of public documents as well as administrative cases of grave misconduct, dishonesty and violation of code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials against them.

Among the respondents are former and incumbent officials of the Makati City government, Makati Science High School and contractors Hillmarc’s Corp. and Infiniti Corp.

Apart from the Vice President and the private respondents, the investigating team also recommended that the younger Binay as well as 14 City Hall officials be placed under preventive suspension pending the investigation of the case.


FILIPINO VOTERS KNOW HOW TO SPOT GOOD LEADERSHIP Submitted by Ellen Tordesillas on June 24, 2015


by Ellen Tordesillas

AT first glance, the result of Pulse Asia’s nationwide survey conducted last May 30 to June 5 showing Vice President Jejomar Binay being the most trusted public official even as there are less and less number of people who want to vote for him for president in the May 2016 elections seem contradictory and confusing.

Reading the explanation of analysts, however, show that Filipinos know how to distinguish between a single good act and their expectations from a president.

That reflects either a high level of political awareness or low level of expectations from leaders.

Binay, who is the subject of a long-running senate investigation on the alleged overpriced Makati Building Parking 2, scored a high 58 percent approval rating (up from 46 percent last March) and 57 percent trust rating (from 42 percent last March).

President Aquino came second with 54 percent approval rating, an increase of 16 percentage points from last March’s 38 percent. His trust rating increased from 36 percent to 50 percent.

But in the same survey, asked if they would vote for Binay for elections were held today, only 22 percent said they would, down from 29 percent last.

It was Sen. Grace Poe who got the highest endorsement from respondents with 30 percent, posting a remarkable 16 percent increase from last March survey results.

Political analyst Earl Parreno explained that “In the approval and trust questions, they are looking at what the public official has done so far in his role in the government.”

READ MORE...

“In the more partisan question (who they would for president in the May 2016 elections), they are looking at the candidate’s values and advocacies that they can identify with,” Parreno said.

Parreno singled out what Aquino and Binay did for OFW Mary Jane Veloso which was one of the stories in the media at the time of the survey.

Veloso was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after she was found carrying shabu when she went to Jakarta more than five years ago.

She was apparently a victim of an international drug syndicate.

Binay appealed to the vice president of Indonesia to spare Veloso’s life. Aquino, on the other hand, talked with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The execution of Veloso was indefinitely postponed and her family hopes that it would be ultimately rescinded.

Filipinos who all prayed that Veloso’s life be spared appreciated what Aquino and Binay did in that particular case.

It takes very little to please Filipinos.


WHAT SETS AQUINO APART FROM PAST PRESIDENTS? Submitted by NESTOR MATA on June 23, 2015


by NESTOR MATA

WHAT sets President Noynoy apart from past presidents of our country is his obvious fathomable ignorance about many important national and international issues facing the nation today, particularly the dire implications of his proposal for a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” (BBL), his mishandling of the dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, and his continuing threats to mangle the Constitution which would jeopardize our democracy.

First of all, Aquino seems unaware that his dream of peace in strife-torn Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago will become a horrible nightmare, if he were to persist in the passage by Congress of his draft of the BBL, with all its insidious doubts on constitutionality. Once approved, as legal and geopolitical experts warned, it will lead to more conflicts in the southern region.

Not only this, Aquino is so gullible that he fell for the “smoke-and-mirrors” trick” of the MILF during the “ceremonial decommissioning of MILF’s combatants and surrender of their 75 firearms” in a Sultan Kudarat town last week. “We are not speaking of just one, two or a dozen weapons,” he rejoiced. “These are some of the highest-grade weapons, these are not outmoded units. These are modern firearms.”

Alas, an examination of the photos by military and other arms experts which were released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process showed that nearly half of the rifles have brown-colored stocks, or the rifles’ bodies which house the barrel and firing mechanisms. They pointed out that these are wooden stocks used in World War I and II rifles, and a third of the arms all belong to a museum of old military arms.” In other words, the MILF turned-in weapons were old or unserviceable, something that a gun-lover like Aquino failed to see.

READ MORE...

Besides, a majority of Filipinos, Christian and Muslim alike, in Mindanao and the rest of the country reject the Aquino-MILF version of the BBL, something that Aquino and his panel of peace negotiators have brushed aside in their futile efforts to rush its approval by both houses of Congress, despite warnings by constitutionalists that it will “create an entire state within the Republic of the Philippines.”

In its report, the Senate committee on the revisions of the Constitution and other laws, headed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, the foremost constitutionalist in Congress, declared that BBL “fails the two-fold test set by the Constitution” and that is in the context of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

More than this, as one keen political observers warned, the approval of the BBL proposal will lead not just to war but also the balkanization or fragmentation of the whole country, which is tantamount to treason by those responsible for them.

This brings to mind the undying words of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, in a speech in the Roman Senate in 58 BC: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason from within...the traitor moves within the gate freely, his sly whispers heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and arguments... He works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist...The traitor is the plague!”

Yes, indeed, this is the biggest problem of our nation today!

***

Aquino’s mishandling of the dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea and his threats to mangle the Constitution, such as his attempts to control Congress and the Supreme Court, that would jeopardize Philippine democracy are issues we have already discussed in previous columns. But, with the coming 2016 presidential election, there is the problem of the enduring power of political dynasties in our democratic system.

This is a big trouble for believers in meritocracy not only in the Philippines but also in the United States and other established democratic countries in the world where political dynasties were supposed to fade as ordinary people got the vote. This never happened because many advantages of kinship proved surprisingly enduring. Political dynasties have a powerful mixture of brand names and personal connections.

One study has estimated that political dynastic families present a greater threat to democracy when they control a majority of power (about 70%) of the last Philippine Congress, compared to only 6% of the last U.S, Congress. “Political dynasties tend to dominate the major political parties...,” the report noted, and the politicians who come from them tend to be wealthier than those who do not, and they also tend to win elections by much larger margins.

Here in the Philippines an Anti-Political Dynasty Bill has not been passed by Congress as required by the 1987 Constitution. Had it been enacted into law, in next year’s race for the presidency it would prohibit any spouse or first-degree relation (including parents, siblings and children) of an incumbent elected official from seeking an elective office, and, although individuals may run once their relative’s term is up, they may not immediately succeed that relative in the same elective office.

In the United States, as a democracy, it ought presumably to be able to dispense with dynastic families, and yet almost 70 years on, next year’s presidential election there could very well become a political or dynastic family affair.

At first blush, the anti-dynasty bill may seem anti-democratic, as it may offend against equal opportunity and temporarily suspend the rights of many individuals to seek elected office. Alas, here in the Philippines and around the world, political or dynastic families continue to thrive. Like it or not, they are here to stay.

The question now is not how they should be banned but how to ensure that they are a force for the good of the country and its people!

***

Thought of the Day: “In democracies, those who lead, follow; those who follow, lead!” – Anonymous


GLARING EVIDENCE OF TAX CHEATING Submitted by Amado P. Macasaet on June 29, 2015


by Amado P. Macasaet

The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry is making too much noise about ways to stamp out smuggling.

The federation ignores the specific case of undervaluation of tobacco imports by Mighty Corp, an old cigarette maker. It refuses to look beyond its nose.

The Bureau of Customs has in its record the company pays only 20 percent of the world average price of the leaf. Therefore, Mighty Corp avoids paying tariff on 80 percent of its tobacco imports.

How customs openly allowed this under valuation does not sit with its oft-repeated declaration it has waged a war against illicit trade. The price of the imports is supposed to be based on what customs call “blue book” which lists prices of nearly all items for export.

Equally to blame is the Bureau of Internal Revenue for refusing to verify the truth or falsity of findings of market researches by A.C. Nielsen and Oxford Economics of London showing Mighty does not declare all of its cigarette production to the BIR.

The research reports could have been verified if the BIR did its duty to compare the capacity of the machines and the volume of cigarettes it produces. The fact that the company bought new equipment to produce more cigarettes is proof its capacity is fully utilized. The fact that the volume declared to the BIR is smaller than actual production is unquestionable proof the company is cheating on specific tax.

READ MORE...

The other proof of tax fraud is the fact that Mighty is claimed to be selling its brands of cigarettes at prices below production costs. Which company operates to sell its products at a loss? There is none except Mighty.

The BIR does not ask questions or even wonder about the “stupidity” of selling at a loss. On the contrary, the BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares was heard by media saying Mighty can give away its cigarettes for free. Her statement suggests all she cares about is seeing Mighty pay the correct tax, not necessarily the correct tax on the correct volume.

There is no doubt Mighty pays the correct tax on volume it declares. As in stories about fishing how about the ones that got away!

The customs bureau is not interested in asking Mighty how it is able to import raw tobacco at 80 percent below world average price. The BIR is not interested in comparing Mighty’s installed capacity compared to actual production and volume declared to the BIR.

There is naked fraud tolerated by the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Yet, the Department of Finance which supervises and controls the two bureaus claims with pride the tax effort has improved. This claim is true for all we know but it becomes a farce when a company like Mighty is allowed to openly cheat on tariff and excise tax.

The most efficient way to curb smuggling and collect more taxes is for the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry to tell BIR people to their faces they connive with smugglers. Mighty Corp is the clear example but the BIR does not want to look at the evidence.

Regular consultations between officials of the federation and key people of customs will not produce anything. As in the joke, the consultations are NATO — “no action, talk only.”

Yet, the BIR declared last week its personnel will be more strict and unforgiving in auditing the books of large taxpayers. Mighty may not be one of them because the taxes in pays are not large. The company could be in the list if it pays the correct tax. Since it obviously does not, BIR personnel will not be harsh in auditing its books.

Indeed, there are many ways to skin a cat as there are a few ways the Bureau of Customs and the BIR openly allows Mighty to cheat on tariffs and excise taxes.

Mighty Corp is skilful. It recently declared some people are counterfeiting its brands and selling the cigarettes without stamp tax. We are not exactly saying the company is faking its own brands. But a chemical comparison between alleged fake and the declared brands of Mighty may turn out to be identical. That suggests the fake and the genuine come from the same factory which could very well be Mighty Corp itself.

To remove any doubt, the findings should be referred and reviewed by such official government bodies as the Department Science and Technology. If it turns out no two cigarette makers can produce chemically identical products, the BIR should dun Mighty for the crime of refusing to pay a tax.. Other agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry should sue Mighty for the crime of counterfeiting.

I am going too far trying to help government straighten out what clearly appears as a case of fraud. If the BIR would not even verify the installed capacity of Mighty in relation to utilization it would be too much for me or anybody to expect the BIR to criminally sue the makers of the cigarettes Mighty claimed is illegally produced, meaning counterfeited.

If Mighty can get away with under-declaring its production it could not be expected to admit it also makes fake cigarettes. In fact, it makes a hero of itself denouncing it.

In sum, the company should be charged for three “crimes”. The first is under-declaration by as much as 80 percent of the price of tobacco it imports. The second should be tax evasion for not declaring to the BIR the correct volume of cigarettes its machines actually produce. The third is counterfeiting or unfair competition.

All three schemes have a common objective: to minimize to extent the BIR would allow the payment of correct taxes. Two agencies are obviously conniving with Mighty to cheat government of tariff and excise tax. Neither of them wants to move.

Here now is this glowing program of the Federation Chambers of Commerce and Industry to have a continuing dialogue with government to curb smuggling. If the federation does not want to confront with a concrete case of under declaration found in entries of Mighty and accepted by customs as Gospel truth how far can the group go looking for evidence on smuggling?

Good show but we are not buying it! There have been many programs before but smuggling flourishes all the more under the Aquino watch. Mighty Corp is an example of why smuggling cannot be eradicated.

Customs is deaf and blind to the illicit trade.


PSYCHO TESTS Submitted by Amado P. Macasaet on June 26, 2015


by Amado P. Macasaet

We claimed here Andy Bautista is not fit as new chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) because he flunked the psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council to all aspirants for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

President Aquino made a more serious mistake when he appointed Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno as chief justice. She too flunked the psycho test given by the same JBC after Senator Juan Ponce Enrile masterfully presided over the impeachment trial that yanked out then C.J. Renato Corona.

The “mistake” of appointing Mrs. Sereno as Chief Justice may no longer be corrected. Failing a psycho test is not a ground for impeachment. If asking a peer to give up his business class seat in a plane ride to Cebu so her driver can sit with her, Chief Justice Sereno might have shown that failing a psycho test has a downside.

She gave undue favor to her bodyguard at the expense of a peer. Would she have done so if she passed the test? The question is not exactly stupid but cannot find any acceptable answer except the fact the particular act smacked of arrogance and abuse.

The lesson here is the uselessness of giving psycho tests for aspirants to become members of the Highest Court. It is not a ground not to appoint an aspirant who did not pass the test.

My own interpretation is both President Aquino and Mrs. Sereno made a mistake that may have some connection with passing or failing the test. The President should have considered how the most senior associate justice would feel if he is denied the chance to become Chief Justice because Mrs. Sereno will serve as head magistrate for almost 20 years.

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By the time she retires at the age of 70, the most senior associate justices would have reached retirement age long before. That may be reason the members of the court, particularly those who have served for many years, may not be expected to cooperate with her.

That, in a manner of speaking, means the President may not expect the cooperation of the Court. In that sense, Mrs. Sereno did not have in mind the serious consequences of her possible inability or failure to herd the Court to her interpretation of the Constitution and the laws.

It is important to note the next President will appoint nine associate justices. That may theoretically keep Mrs. Sereno in the minority until she retires.

Chief Justice Sereno made an en banc ruling without the signature of her peers. She was the lone signatory to the ruling. Would she have done so if she did not fail the psycho test? Your guess is as good as mine but that particular act may show the state of her mind as Chief Justice that reflects the deeper meaning of her failure to pass the psycho test.

I cannot imagine any solution to this “problem.” So far there are no palpable signs that she should be impeached for culpable violation of the Constitution. She will serve until she reaches the retirement age of 70.

Her failure to pass the test does not necessarily deny her the necessity of self-examination. There is wisdom for her to think about how she can serve the people through the Court. She cannot perform that job if she remains in the minority.

Up to this time, after five long years, Chief Justice Sereno has the unenviable reputation of failing to herd the Court to her side.

She might consider resignation and tell the President she does think she can serve him in critical cases filed against Malacañang or for Malacañang.

The President has only one year left of his term. That is precisely the reason she should leave the court by resignation.

If we must admit the existence of politics in the Court particularly for the Chief Executive, the incoming President may not be expected to support Mrs. Sereno. The Court ruled the pork barrel is unconstitutional. Mrs. Sereno had to concur.

She would have been hopelessly swamped by the majority which made the ruling.

She will be dominated by the nine new associate justices the next President will appoint.

She may have the will or intention to oppose the next President for reasons that sit with the Constitution and the laws. She will never have her way if we consider the facet that members of the Court owe the President the favor of appointing them.

Her “misfortune” the current majority of the members of her Court were appointed by President Arroyo was obviously for her own protection. The situation will not change since the nine new members of the Court will be appointed by the next President. They will owe loyalty to him, not always to the Court.

She will go down in history as an honorable, self-respecting head magistrate if she leaves the court and say the farthest thing from mind is denying the senior associate justices the chance to become head magistrate.

Doing so is duty to country, to justice and to herself.

The question of her failing the psycho test will be buried and forgotten instead of being recalled every time she commits a “blunder” like promulgating an en banc ruling with only her signature. That is another reason to resign.

There is life after the Court if she leaves by resignation. At present, she is living a hard life that will even be harder after the next President appoints nine new associate justices.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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