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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM PHILSTAR

EDITORIAL: HIGHEST & MOST TEDIOUS TAX PAYMENT, (127th) IN THE WORLD
[Apart from the cumbersome tax payment process, the Philippines also has one of the highest tax rates – six percent higher than the average in the Asia-Pacific, according to the study. The high personal income and corporate taxes, on top of other minuses such as the highest power cost in Asia, make it difficult for the Philippines to compete with its neighbors in attracting job-generating investments. The study should make the Aquino administration take a second look at its resistance to tax reforms.]


There’s no escaping death and taxes. Those with the right connections, those who can afford topnotch accountants to cook the books, and those who can bribe their way to a lower assessment can get away with lower taxes, but they still have to pay. So governments should at least make tax payments easy.
This, unfortunately, is not the case in the Philippines, except of course in the case of income taxes automatically withheld from monthly salaries. A study comparing tax payment procedures in 189 economies, conducted by auditing and tax advising firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, ranked the Philippines 127th in ease of paying taxes. The study, called “Paying Taxes 2015,” is part of the “Doing Business” project of the World Bank Group. It showed that it takes an average of 193 hours to pay 36 kinds of taxes and fees annually in the Philippines, making the country rank behind even Iraq and Afghanistan. Compare this with the countries where tax payment is easiest: only four payments are required in the United Arab Emirates, with the entire process taking only 12 hours, while it takes 41 hours in neighboring Qatar, which shared the top spot with the UAE. Third-ranked Saudi Arabia requires a total of only three payments, although the process takes 64 hours, according to the study. READ MORE...

ALSO By Satur Ocampo: Lower income taxes now
[It’s high time the government addressed the built-in inequity of the personal income tax system before P-Noy’s term ends, the group urges, stressing: “Maintaining the status quo…is no longer acceptable for the working sector which has endured the impact of inflation through the years.”]


By Satur C. Ocampo
Aiming to convince President Aquino to drop his opposition to lowering income taxes, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told journalists the House leadership is determined to legislate such reduction – at least one of the pending proposals – before the 16th Congress winds up next June. The Speaker singled out one proposal for passage by Congress: to adjust the various levels of taxable income to inflation. When they talk to P-Noy, as Belmonte said he and Senate President Franklin Drilon would do, they should not go for just one aspect of income tax reform. They ought to push for a progressive tax regime that should effectively shift the burden from the lower-income earners to the highest-income corporations and individuals. Is that asking too much? No! Consider the following: • The 10 income tax brackets – with P500,000 as top tax base – were set in July 1986 and have stayed substantially intact since then. Also since 1986, the National Statistics Office says, consumer prices had increased by 539.53% in 2014. The P500,000 top tax base is now equivalent to P2.697 million (as adjusted for inflation). • With the current income tax brackets and tax rates, the Philippines effectively imposes the highest personal income tax in the whole Association of Southeast Asian Nations region. A study presented by the Tax Management Association of the Philippines (TMAP) shows that a Filipino taxpayer earning P500,000 annually is taxed at 32%. The comparative tax rates for equivalent income in other ASEAN countries are: Vietnam, 20%; Cambodia, 20%; Laos, 12%; Malaysia, 11%; Thailand, 10%; Singapore, 2%; and Brunei, no taxes. • January 2015 data from the National Wage Productivity Commission show the highest daily minimum wage was P466, or P123,000/year (in Metro Manila) and the lowest is P213, or P56,232/year (in Ilocos region). While minimum wage earners are tax exempt, these income levels fall short of the Family Living Wage (“the minimum amount needed by a family of six members to meet its daily food and non-food needs, plus a 10% allocation for savings”). As of August 2014, Ibon Foundation estimated the Family Living Wage at P1,086/day, or P396,390/year. • Under the prevailing tax system, once a minimum wage earner acquires additional income no matter how small in excess of the minimum, the entire income becomes taxable. (The above-cited data come from the explanatory note of House Bill 5401, filed by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate. The bills’ proposals are cited below.) • From 2010 to 2013, according to Ibon Foundation, individual income tax payments grew by 18%, compared to only 13.3% for corporate income taxes. In 2013, the share of individual income taxes to total government revenues was 18.7%, whereas that of corporate income taxes was only 12.9%. • Even taxes on purchases of goods and services grew faster than corporate income taxes. Under the 2015 national budget, Ibon observes, the government will continue to source revenues from indirect taxes. This disproportionately burdens the low- and middle-income Filipino consumers, while boosting the incomes of rich families and big corporations. • Under the current tax system, the TMAP notes, the government has been relying on raising revenues through inflation, rather than through efficient tax administration. This, it stresses, is detrimental to salaried workers, (who) account for about 80% of total BIR collection from individual taxpayers. • Citing the BIR’s annual report, TMAP points out that taxes withheld from salaried workers were the single biggest-contributor group to the hike in BIR collections from 2013 to 2014: providing 2.5% (P31 billion) of the 9.7% (P118 billion) increase. READ MORE...

ALSO By Ana Marie Pamintuan: Still unprepared
[After two years, we should all be getting our act together in responding to disasters. Lando showed that we have a long way to go.]


By Ana Marie Pamintuan
A joke going around is that the provincial police director of Benguet was sacked for telling the truth and giving the correct death toll from Typhoon Lando in the province. Police Senior Superintendent David Lacdan of course isn’t laughing. With 14 fatalities, Benguet had the highest body count. The “lack of preparedness” that led to the 14 deaths was blamed on Lacdan, who was relieved by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento. Lacdan, who had been in his post for only three months, obeyed without a fuss, even as Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said yesterday that the provincial police “did their work very well” during the typhoon. I guess a scapegoat was needed for the 58 fatalities. Perhaps Sarmiento also wants Lacdan to undergo “stress debriefing” – the reason given by the interior secretary’s predecessor when Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria was sacked as Leyte provincial director amid the devastation from Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. As bodies piled up and began decomposing in the streets of Tacloban, Soria, collating estimates from around the affected areas, famously said the death toll from the monster howler could reach 10,000. Apart from placing Soria on “floating” status, daang matuwid, which had bragged that it wanted “zero casualties” during typhoons, stopped the official body count at a little over 6,300 even as victims’ remains continued to be found. Never mind if pesky officials of Tacloban said there were still many people unaccounted for and bodies to be retrieved under the ships that ran aground in the city. Mar Roxas, at the time the interior secretary, said it was SOP in the Philippine National Police in such circumstances to undergo “stress debriefing.”  Lacdan will probably need stress debriefing – over his relief. * * * It’s good to have goals, and “zero casualties” should always be the goal in disaster preparedness. We have to be realistic, however, and accept that attaining the goal is hit-or-miss in our country. Our resources for disaster preparedness and mitigation are so limited we often have to wait for help from other countries to carry out emergency rescue and relief efforts. Attaining “zero casualties” is also iffy in the age of unpredictable, extreme weather disturbances. Yesterday President Aquino visited Casiguran in Aurora, where Lando made landfall, and lauded the town’s preparedness. But even the town that P-Noy touts as a model for preparedness suffered two casualties. In the case of Yolanda and its killer storm surge, we had to wait four days for the Americans (with their planes on their aircraft carrier) and other foreign contingents to arrive before food could be airdropped and rescue missions carried out in areas isolated by the typhoon. By that time, looting and riots over food had erupted in several areas. In Guiuan, Eastern Samar where Yolanda made landfall, US troops riding Ospreys took over the battered airport. When I visited, they were serving as air traffic controllers for the various foreign aircraft, mostly military, that delivered relief goods and flew out residents to Cebu until late in the night when Guiuan was pitch-black because power was out. READ MORE...

ALSO By Federico D. Pascual Jr: Aquino’s stand on UN rulings is inconsistent |
[If the administration cannot be fair, it should at least be consistent. The President should make up his mind about honoring rulings of agencies of the UN, of which the Philippines was one of the 51 founding members when its charter was ratified Oct. 24, 1945.]


By Federico D. Pascual JR. MALACAÑANG is in the habit of respecting the law when construed in its favor, but dismissing it when its interpretation does not serve the Palace’s ulterior agenda. The administration’s inconsistent attitude toward the rule of law in international relations does not speak well of President Noynoy Aquino as the country’s spokesman in foreign affairs. The Philippines insists that China stand before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to thresh out bilateral territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But it dismisses the UN Working Group on Human Rights ruling that the detention of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is arbitrary and incompatible with international law. If the administration cannot be fair, it should at least be consistent. The President should make up his mind about honoring rulings of agencies of the UN, of which the Philippines was one of the 51 founding members when its charter was ratified Oct. 24, 1945. Speaking last July 7 before the UN arbitral court on the Philippines-China dispute, the President’s alter ego Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario declared: “The Philippines has long placed its faith in the rules and institutions that the international community has created to regulate relations among States… Its (the UN’s) organs, coupled with the power of international law, serve as the great equalizer among States… The Philippines has respected and implemented its rights and obligations under the (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) in good faith.” READ MORE...

ALSO By Ernesto Maceda: Pacquiao heads UNA ticket
[Pacquiao believes Binay will be one of the best leaders that Filipinos truly deserve to have as president. Also joining UNA are retired General Getulio Napeñas, broadcaster Rey Langit, labor leader Allan Montano. Guest candidates are former Senators Migz Zubiri and Dick Gordon, and Rep. Martin Romualdez. Mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada announced he is supporting seven candidates for senator, including Vice Mayor Moreno, Senator Gordon, Senator Zubiri, General Napeñas, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, Congressman Neri Colmenares and Senator Panfilo Lacson. Erap is also considering Congressman Pacquiao as his next endorsee.]


By Ernesto M. Maceda Boxing icon and Sarangani Congressman Manny Pacquiao gave Vice President Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) party a big boost when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator under their banner. Pacquiao was earlier considered to be in the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial slate while some of his close family members and religious and political advisers believe he should run under PDP-Laban. But the eight-division world boxing champion opted to run under Vice President Binay’s political party due to the fact that they both came from a poor family and they struggled with poverty. Deeming himself as the champion of the poor, he believes they both can inspire the poor. As to Vice President Binay’s graft and corruption allegations, he brushed the issue aside as these are still untrue until proven guilty. Pacquiao believes Binay will be one of the best leaders that Filipinos truly deserve to have as president. Also joining UNA are retired General Getulio Napeñas, broadcaster Rey Langit, labor leader Allan Montano. Guest candidates are former Senators Migz Zubiri and Dick Gordon, and Rep. Martin Romualdez. Last minute filers of COC for senator were former Senator Dick Gordon, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Rafael Alunan, Lawyer Levito Baligod, actor Edu Manzano, former National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chief Eduardo del Rosario, former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica, former Quezon City Rep. Dante Liban, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief General Dionisio Santiago and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Eid Kabalu. Mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada announced he is supporting seven candidates for senator, including Vice Mayor Moreno, Senator Gordon, Senator Zubiri, General Napeñas, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, Congressman Neri Colmenares and Senator Panfilo Lacson. READ MORE...RELATED, Lando most destructive ...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL - 127th in the world

MANILA, OCTOBER 26, 2015 (PHILSTAR) October 20, 2015 - There’s no escaping death and taxes. Those with the right connections, those who can afford topnotch accountants to cook the books, and those who can bribe their way to a lower assessment can get away with lower taxes, but they still have to pay. So governments should at least make tax payments easy.

This, unfortunately, is not the case in the Philippines, except of course in the case of income taxes automatically withheld from monthly salaries. A study comparing tax payment procedures in 189 economies, conducted by auditing and tax advising firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, ranked the Philippines 127th in ease of paying taxes.

The study, called “Paying Taxes 2015,” is part of the “Doing Business” project of the World Bank Group. It showed that it takes an average of 193 hours to pay 36 kinds of taxes and fees annually in the Philippines, making the country rank behind even Iraq and Afghanistan.

Compare this with the countries where tax payment is easiest: only four payments are required in the United Arab Emirates, with the entire process taking only 12 hours, while it takes 41 hours in neighboring Qatar, which shared the top spot with the UAE. Third-ranked Saudi Arabia requires a total of only three payments, although the process takes 64 hours, according to the study.

READ MORE...

Two Asian economies ranked in the top five: Hong Kong, placing fourth, has only three tax payments. Singapore followed with five. Malaysia placed 32nd and Thailand 62nd. It is surely no coincidence that the four Asian economies are ahead of the Philippines in luring foreign direct investment and in many development indicators. Hong Kong and Singapore also consistently compete for the No. 1 spot in international surveys on good governance.

Apart from the cumbersome tax payment process, the Philippines also has one of the highest tax rates – six percent higher than the average in the Asia-Pacific, according to the study. The high personal income and corporate taxes, on top of other minuses such as the highest power cost in Asia, make it difficult for the Philippines to compete with its neighbors in attracting job-generating investments. The study should make the Aquino administration take a second look at its resistance to tax reforms.


Lower income taxes now AT GROUND LEVEL By Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 24, 2015 - 12:00am 1 3 googleplus0 0


 By Satur C. Ocampo

Aiming to convince President Aquino to drop his opposition to lowering income taxes, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told journalists the House leadership is determined to legislate such reduction – at least one of the pending proposals – before the 16th Congress winds up next June.

The Speaker singled out one proposal for passage by Congress: to adjust the various levels of taxable income to inflation.

When they talk to P-Noy, as Belmonte said he and Senate President Franklin Drilon would do, they should not go for just one aspect of income tax reform. They ought to push for a progressive tax regime that should effectively shift the burden from the lower-income earners to the highest-income corporations and individuals.

Is that asking too much? No! Consider the following:

• The 10 income tax brackets – with P500,000 as top tax base – were set in July 1986 and have stayed substantially intact since then. Also since 1986, the National Statistics Office says, consumer prices had increased by 539.53% in 2014. The P500,000 top tax base is now equivalent to P2.697 million (as adjusted for inflation).

• With the current income tax brackets and tax rates, the Philippines effectively imposes the highest personal income tax in the whole Association of Southeast Asian Nations region. A study presented by the Tax Management Association of the Philippines (TMAP) shows that a Filipino taxpayer earning P500,000 annually is taxed at 32%. The comparative tax rates for equivalent income in other ASEAN countries are: Vietnam, 20%; Cambodia, 20%; Laos, 12%; Malaysia, 11%; Thailand, 10%; Singapore, 2%; and Brunei, no taxes.

• January 2015 data from the National Wage Productivity Commission show the highest daily minimum wage was P466, or P123,000/year (in Metro Manila) and the lowest is P213, or P56,232/year (in Ilocos region). While minimum wage earners are tax exempt, these income levels fall short of the Family Living Wage (“the minimum amount needed by a family of six members to meet its daily food and non-food needs, plus a 10% allocation for savings”). As of August 2014, Ibon Foundation estimated the Family Living Wage at P1,086/day, or P396,390/year.

• Under the prevailing tax system, once a minimum wage earner acquires additional income no matter how small in excess of the minimum, the entire income becomes taxable.

(The above-cited data come from the explanatory note of House Bill 5401, filed by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate. The bills’ proposals are cited below.)

• From 2010 to 2013, according to Ibon Foundation, individual income tax payments grew by 18%, compared to only 13.3% for corporate income taxes. In 2013, the share of individual income taxes to total government revenues was 18.7%, whereas that of corporate income taxes was only 12.9%.

• Even taxes on purchases of goods and services grew faster than corporate income taxes. Under the 2015 national budget, Ibon observes, the government will continue to source revenues from indirect taxes. This disproportionately burdens the low- and middle-income Filipino consumers, while boosting the incomes of rich families and big corporations.

• Under the current tax system, the TMAP notes, the government has been relying on raising revenues through inflation, rather than through efficient tax administration. This, it stresses, is detrimental to salaried workers, (who) account for about 80% of total BIR collection from individual taxpayers.

• Citing the BIR’s annual report, TMAP points out that taxes withheld from salaried workers were the single biggest-contributor group to the hike in BIR collections from 2013 to 2014: providing 2.5% (P31 billion) of the 9.7% (P118 billion) increase.

READ MORE...

It’s high time the government addressed the built-in inequity of the personal income tax system before P-Noy’s term ends, the group urges, stressing: “Maintaining the status quo…is no longer acceptable for the working sector which has endured the impact of inflation through the years.”

Back to House Bill 5401, Colmenares and Zarate bat for equitably adjusting and restructuring the income tax brackets and rates “to provide immediate relief to individual taxpayers.”

Their bill seeks to exempt low-income families/earners from income tax; fix the minimum taxable income at P396,000 (family living wage); restructure and simplify the income brackets and tax rates; reduce and align the maximum tax rate with that of corporate taxpayers (from 32% to 30%); raise the top tax base from P500,000 to P2.7 million (to reflect the effect of inflation); set an automatic adjustment/indexation mechanism; and align the optional standard deduction base for individuals with that for corporations,

In specific terms, House Bill 5401 calls for the following adjustments in annual income tax rates: not over P396,000, tax exempt; over P396,000 to P640,000, 10% of excess over P396,000; over P640,000 to P1million, P24,400+15% of excess; P1 million to P1,650,000, P78,400+ 20% of excess; over P1,650,000 to P2.7 million, P208,400+ 25% of excess; over P2.7 million, P470,900+ 30% of excess.

It proposes that on Jan. 1, 2019 and every 3 years thereafter, the specified taxable amounts “shall be adjusted to their (current) value using the consumer price index as published by the National Statistics Office.”

The Senate version of this proposal, filed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, provides these figures (net taxable income) and rates: below P20,000, tax exempt; below P60,000, 10%; P60,000 t0 P140,000, 15%; P140,000 to P280,000, 20%; P280,000 to P500,000, 25%; P500,000 to P1 million, 30%. These amounts and rates shall be indexed “automatically to inflation every 6 years, without the need for legislative action.”

Which version do you prefer?


Still unprepared SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 23, 2015 - 12:00am 2 19 googleplus0 0


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

A joke going around is that the provincial police director of Benguet was sacked for telling the truth and giving the correct death toll from Typhoon Lando in the province.

Police Senior Superintendent David Lacdan of course isn’t laughing.

With 14 fatalities, Benguet had the highest body count. The “lack of preparedness” that led to the 14 deaths was blamed on Lacdan, who was relieved by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.

Lacdan, who had been in his post for only three months, obeyed without a fuss, even as Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said yesterday that the provincial police “did their work very well” during the typhoon. I guess a scapegoat was needed for the 58 fatalities.

Perhaps Sarmiento also wants Lacdan to undergo “stress debriefing” – the reason given by the interior secretary’s predecessor when Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria was sacked as Leyte provincial director amid the devastation from Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

As bodies piled up and began decomposing in the streets of Tacloban, Soria, collating estimates from around the affected areas, famously said the death toll from the monster howler could reach 10,000.

Apart from placing Soria on “floating” status, daang matuwid, which had bragged that it wanted “zero casualties” during typhoons, stopped the official body count at a little over 6,300 even as victims’ remains continued to be found. Never mind if pesky officials of Tacloban said there were still many people unaccounted for and bodies to be retrieved under the ships that ran aground in the city.

Mar Roxas, at the time the interior secretary, said it was SOP in the Philippine National Police in such circumstances to undergo “stress debriefing.”

Lacdan will probably need stress debriefing – over his relief.

* * *

It’s good to have goals, and “zero casualties” should always be the goal in disaster preparedness.

We have to be realistic, however, and accept that attaining the goal is hit-or-miss in our country. Our resources for disaster preparedness and mitigation are so limited we often have to wait for help from other countries to carry out emergency rescue and relief efforts. Attaining “zero casualties” is also iffy in the age of unpredictable, extreme weather disturbances.

Yesterday President Aquino visited Casiguran in Aurora, where Lando made landfall, and lauded the town’s preparedness. But even the town that P-Noy touts as a model for preparedness suffered two casualties.

In the case of Yolanda and its killer storm surge, we had to wait four days for the Americans (with their planes on their aircraft carrier) and other foreign contingents to arrive before food could be airdropped and rescue missions carried out in areas isolated by the typhoon. By that time, looting and riots over food had erupted in several areas.

In Guiuan, Eastern Samar where Yolanda made landfall, US troops riding Ospreys took over the battered airport. When I visited, they were serving as air traffic controllers for the various foreign aircraft, mostly military, that delivered relief goods and flew out residents to Cebu until late in the night when Guiuan was pitch-black because power was out.

READ MORE...

Our disaster preparedness has improved since then, but I’m not sure if we are ready to deal on our own with another typhoon on the same scale as Yolanda. The avalanche of foreign assistance might have even lulled some of us into complacency.

As other typhoons and massive flooding after Yolanda have shown, there’s a wide room for improvement in preparedness and emergency response, whether in Metro Manila or in rural areas.

Little has been done to improve evacuation facilities. The inadequacy of these temporary shelters is one of the biggest reasons for the refusal of people to leave their homes for safer ground despite warnings about landslides and torrential flooding. Another reason is the valid concern that houses, even when locked, will be burglarized if abandoned even temporarily.

The refusal to evacuate, in turn, can lead to a high body count. It should be the task of the government at the grassroots – the barangay offices – to persuade residents that they must leave their homes, which will be protected from thieves. And it must be the task of governors and mayors to mobilize evacuation at the grassroots.

Even during forced evacuation in cases of extreme emergencies, the police must be supervised by civilian authorities in moving out people from danger zones.

* * *

We also need to work on long-term recovery. In the Yolanda-hit areas, rehabilitation can move faster and unemployment remains high.

It will take from six to eight years for the coconut plantations of Samar and Leyte to fully recover as sustainable livelihood sources. Several foreign groups are assisting the affected areas in shifting to other crops such as vegetables.

Yolanda flattened the plantations. The sight of that agricultural wasteland, with the prospect of long-term unemployment, was as depressing as the destruction of houses.

Even the provision of shelters in the Yolanda-hit areas remains a work in progress. The tent communities are still there – and the best tents, I was told by several of the foreign donors, are good for only three years before deterioration starts.

In the aftermath of Yolanda, national officials blamed the local government in Tacloban for lack of preparedness and failure to evacuate residents particularly in coastal communities. Local officials in turn slammed the national government for its disastrous initial response to the calamity. Both sides were right.

After two years, we should all be getting our act together in responding to disasters. Lando showed that we have a long way to go.


Aquino’s stand on UN rulings is inconsistent POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual JR. (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 20, 2015 - 12:00am 4 16 googleplus0 0


By Federico D. Pascual JR.

MALACAÑANG is in the habit of respecting the law when construed in its favor, but dismissing it when its interpretation does not serve the Palace’s ulterior agenda.

The administration’s inconsistent attitude toward the rule of law in international relations does not speak well of President Noynoy Aquino as the country’s spokesman in foreign affairs.

The Philippines insists that China stand before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to thresh out bilateral territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But it dismisses the UN Working Group on Human Rights ruling that the detention of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is arbitrary and incompatible with international law.

If the administration cannot be fair, it should at least be consistent. The President should make up his mind about honoring rulings of agencies of the UN, of which the Philippines was one of the 51 founding members when its charter was ratified Oct. 24, 1945.

Speaking last July 7 before the UN arbitral court on the Philippines-China dispute, the President’s alter ego Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario declared:

“The Philippines has long placed its faith in the rules and institutions that the international community has created to regulate relations among States… Its (the UN’s) organs, coupled with the power of international law, serve as the great equalizer among States… The Philippines has respected and implemented its rights and obligations under the (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) in good faith.”

READ MORE...

Three months later, however, Malacañang rejected as merely the opinion of an outsider the UN working group’s ruling that Ms Arroyo’s continued detention violated international law.

• Palace says UN meddling in GMA case

COMMUNICATIONS Secretary Sonny Coloma said last Oct. 8 that Ms Arroyo has been accorded due process, that there is an on-going judicial process, and that any international body cannot interfere nor influence the course of an independent judicial proceeding.

He said that the Philippines, as a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “abides by its international obligations and ensures that all individuals are accorded due process under its laws.”

Unlike China that refused to join the arbitral proceedings in The Hague, the Philippines participated in the UN working group’s hearings on the Arroyo case – but rejected the ruling when it did not conform to what it wanted.

To resolve the case once and for all, and in the interest of speedy justice, the Sandiganbayan should not allow the trial to drag. After all, the prosecution claims to have solid evidence to pin down Ms Arroyo.

The administration should now cut the slow drag, go for the jugular and get it over with – unless the real intent is to persecute, not just to prosecute, and inflict as cruel a punishment as is possible.

We are not saying that Ms Arroyo is innocent. We are just saying that like other accused, she is entitled to fair treatment and a speedy trial. The Sandiganbayan should open a reasonable recourse to bail.

It is anomalous that many of Ms Arroyo’s co-accused – who, under the theory of conspiracy, are equally guilty or innocent – are out on bail while she is not. Some of them have even been cleared after the court upheld their motions for the demurrer to evidence.

It is childish, at the same time unchristian, for the most powerful man in the country to keep hounding Ms Arroyo already suffering from a life-threatening medical condition.

• Clooney reports on UN ruling on GMA

INTERNATIONAL lawyer Amal Clooney who brought the case before the UN reported in an e-mail to a counsel of Ms Arroyo:

“In its opinion released on Oct. 2, 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention confirmed that the detention of (Arroyo) violates international law and is arbitrary on a number of grounds. The opinion was issued following an individual complaint filed by counsel for Ms Arroyo last February. On June 15, the Government filed its reply through the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, arguing that Ms Arroyo’s detention was legal, and that the UN Working Group should dismiss the case. Ms Arroyo then filed a written response to the Government’s arguments through her counsel. The Working Group therefore had before it extensive legal submissions both from Ms Arroyo’s counsel and from the Government’s legal advisors.

“In its Opinion, the Working Group – a prominent UN body composed of five independent human rights experts – endorsed the arguments advanced by Ms Arroyo’s counsel in full and held that, in its reply submitted last June, the Government had failed to refute any of her allegations. The UN opinion finds that the detention of former President Arroyo was arbitrary and illegal under international law because the Sandiganbayan failed to take into account her individual circumstances when it repeatedly denied bail, failed to consider measures alternative to pre-trial detention and because of the undue delays in proceedings against her. Further, the Working Group recognized that the charges against Ms Arroyo are politically motivated, since she is detained ‘as a result of the exercise of her right to take part in government and the conduct of public affairs’ and ‘because of her political… opinion.’

“The Working Group highlighted the Government’s ‘defiance of court rulings removing travel bans against Ms Arroyo’ as an example of the Government targeting her and interfering with judicial decisions in her case. This finding related to an incident in which the Justice Secretary prevented Ms Arroyo from boarding a plane in November 2011 in violation of a Supreme Court ruling allowing her to seek medical treatment abroad.

“As a result of the Government’s violations, the Working Group recommended reconsideration of Ms Arroyo’s application for bail in accordance with the relevant international human rights standards and to accord Ms Arroyo with an enforceable right to compensation… for the deprivation of liberty which already occurred.”

* * *


Pacquiao heads UNA ticket SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 20, 2015 - 12:00am 0 5 googleplus0 0


By Ernesto M. Maceda

Boxing icon and Sarangani Congressman Manny Pacquiao gave Vice President Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) party a big boost when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator under their banner.

Pacquiao was earlier considered to be in the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial slate while some of his close family members and religious and political advisers believe he should run under PDP-Laban. But the eight-division world boxing champion opted to run under Vice President Binay’s political party due to the fact that they both came from a poor family and they struggled with poverty. Deeming himself as the champion of the poor, he believes they both can inspire the poor. As to Vice President Binay’s graft and corruption allegations, he brushed the issue aside as these are still untrue until proven guilty.

Pacquiao believes Binay will be one of the best leaders that Filipinos truly deserve to have as president.

Also joining UNA are retired General Getulio Napeñas, broadcaster Rey Langit, labor leader Allan Montano. Guest candidates are former Senators Migz Zubiri and Dick Gordon, and Rep. Martin Romualdez.

Last minute filers of COC for senator were former Senator Dick Gordon, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Rafael Alunan, Lawyer Levito Baligod, actor Edu Manzano, former National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chief Eduardo del Rosario, former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica, former Quezon City Rep. Dante Liban, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief General Dionisio Santiago and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Eid Kabalu.

Mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada announced he is supporting seven candidates for senator, including Vice Mayor Moreno, Senator Gordon, Senator Zubiri, General Napeñas, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, Congressman Neri Colmenares and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

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Erap is also considering Congressman Pacquiao as his next endorsee.

Major defection The Liberal Party (LP) lost one of its brightest leaders when Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, who leads the 44-member Visayan bloc, resigned as a member of their political party.

Benitez was apparently disappointed with Mar Roxas’s decision to throw his support to Governor Alfredo Marañon without consulting LP members in the province. Benitez and Marañon have been at political odds since 2013. Also, the running mate of Marañon, Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, who is a member of National Unity Party (NUP), does not see things the same way as Benitez. In other words, Roxas is giving support to those who were not recognized as official LP candidates.

Albee, the fourth richest congressman in the House of Representatives, was expected to provide funding for them. Many politicians are looking up to him for financial and political support.

Benitez owns several airplanes and helicopters which could have been available for the LP campaign. In the 2010 polls, he helped fund the campaign of President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III.

His resignation breaks the heretofore solid Western-Visayas support for administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas.

Also leaving the Roxas camp are Senator Serge Osmeña III, Pasig Congressman Roman Romulo and former Laguna Congre

Marawi police chief ambushed

Superintendent Al-Abner Wahab Santos, OIC-chief of police of Marawi City, was ambushed and shot dead a day after politicians filed their COCs.

Santos was driving his Mitsubishi Montero on his way to the city police station when he was ambushed by armed men. He died at the scene with gunshots to the head.

More than 30 people were killed in separate attacks in Marawi City in the last 12 months. Militants and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, including jihadist groups, are actively operating in the province.

Meanwhile, PO2 Espaldon Bara Tingkahan was shot dead by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rebels near the Jolo airport.

Duterte debate

There’s a big debate as to who is favored by the withdrawal of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

One view claims that Duterte’s withdrawal favors Mar Roxas as a Duterte candidacy would have drawn a big segment of his Visayan voters.

Another view claims that Duterte’s withdrawal favors Vice President Jejomar Binay since he was running second to Duterte among Mindanao voters.

Others, led by University of the Philippines (UP) Prof. Prospero de Vera, claim his withdrawal favors Senator Grace Poe as the new face left in the campaign.

As for Manny Pacquiao, he admitted that Duterte’s decision not to seek the presidency made the task of choosing Binay easier. Being a close of friend Duterte, some of their common friends and political advisers wanted him to run under Duterte’s ticket.

Hope for tax cut bill Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. plan to talk to President Noynoy Aquino to convince him to agree to a tax reform bill.

According to Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, if the President agrees, they could pass the tax cut bill before Christmas.

Senator Chiz Escudero said a study done by international firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), showed the Philippines not only has the highest income tax rates in Asia, but it also has one of the most tedious processes for paying taxes in the world.

According to a study, in the Philippines, it takes 193 hours for a businessman to pay 36 kinds of fees and taxes each year.

The average income tax rate and contributions paid by a Philippine employer is 42.5 percent, or six percent higher than the average tax rate in the Asia Pacific.

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RELATED

Lando most destructive SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 24, 2015 - 12:00am 2 1 googleplus0 0

Lando is the most destructive typhoon to hit the country this year, leaving behind P7.5 billion in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.

Death toll has gone up to 58 – 13 in Central Luzon, 9 from Western Visayas, 8 from Ilocos Region, 5 from Cagayan de Oro, 2 from Metro Manila, 1 from Calabarzon, and 20 in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), 15 of which were recorded in Benguet. Eighty-four people were wounded.

Nueva Ecija and Bulacan suffered the biggest losses in agriculture with an estimated P2 billion and P1 billion, respectively. Also suffering substantial losses were Pangasinan, Isabela and Pampanga. Fishponds in Pangasinan were also damaged.

Aurora province registered only three deaths but suffered major damage. In Casiguran alone, 886 houses were totally destroyed.

Some 268,774 families were affected by Typhoon Lando, including 1,242,239 persons.

One hundred one road sections are not passable. Eleven bridges were destroyed. Dalton Pass in Nueva Vizcaya was closed to traffic for two days.

Many schools were damaged by Lando.

President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino Jr. visited Cabanatuan City and Casiguran, Aurora and delivered relief goods.

Vice President Jejomar Binay visited Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Isabela. Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo visited Cabanatuan and towns in Western Pangasinan. There was no report on Grace Poe’s distribution of relief.

Unsolved problems After five and a half year in office, the Aquino administration has left even simple problems unsolved.

One outstanding example is the lack of car plates. Land Transportation Office (LTO) had reported a backlog of 60,000 plates unreleased.

Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEx) is still unfinished.

Airport congestion is still a major problem with airplanes going around Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for two hours before they are allowed to land.

Flooding is still a major problem. The P560-million flood interceptor project in Blumentritt, Manila is far from being finished.

The government has not reduced the incidence of Dengue cases. It has even increased. Malaria cases have also increased.

It takes at least one week to get an appointment for the issuance of a passport.

Another kidnapping Loreto, Agusan Del Sur Mayor Dario Otaza, a former New People’s Army (NPA) member, and his son Daryl were kidnapped by suspected communist rebels from their home in Barangay Boan, Butuan City. The two kidnapped victims were found shot dead in a coconut plantation in Butuan City. The kidnapping took place two days after Otaza filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for reelection.

Malacañang, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and the Eastern Mindanao Command condemned the killings of Otaza and his son. Vice President Binay called for a probe and urged all those running for elective posts in next year’s elections to abide by the rule of law.

“Whether this brutal killing is election-related or a continuation of the oppression against Lumads, this culture of impunity must end,” Binay said.

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Two tribal leaders in Agusan Del Norte, Datu Saligando and Datu Ricardo Mandihinog Sulhayan, were abducted by NPA rebels this month. The latter was killed.

On Oct. 13, Zamboanga Sibugay Mayor Randy Climaco was killed in an ambush while on transit from Barangay Batungan to Poblacion Tungawan. Mayor Climaco just came from the local election office to file his COC for reelection when the ambush occurred.

Earlier this month, Isabela Vice Mayor Abdulbaki ‘Panther’ Ajibon was wounded when a bomb exploded, hitting his convoy in Isabela City, Basilan. The incident happened two days after he declared he was seeking the mayoral post of Isabela next year.

Regional and provincial mobile forces as well as the special force battalion are being deployed to help the 401st Infantry Brigade in the manhunt operations against the rebels in Agusan del Sur.

Meanwhile, Chinese Consul General Song Ronghua, his assistant, Consul Sun Shan, and Consul Finance Officer Hui Li were shot inside a restaurant in Cebu City. Consul Ronghua survived the shooting while the two others died. They were shot by Li Qing Li and his wife Guo Jing, who will be both turned over to the Chinese Embassy because they have diplomatic immunity.

Tidbits Gapos Gang held up a family of Philippines Graphic Magazine account manager Dennis Guevarra in Las Piñas, and got away with P400,000.

Presidential spokesperson Herminio Coloma said that it will take two more years to recover from Typhoon Yolanda. Only 28 percent of P76.6 billion was released for rehabilitation.

Out of 50 public–private partnership (PPP), only 10 was awarded by the government.

Vice Mayor Isko Moreno is adopted by the Miriam Defensor Santiago-Bongbong Marcos ticket as a senatorial candidate.

Susan ‘Toots’ Ople is adopted as a senatorial candidate by United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Former Senator Tessie Aquino Oreta is running for Congress in Malabon.

The Sandiganbayan has suspended Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes for 60 days as she faces graft and technical malversation.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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