Taxing the future

Update: DOF suspends Order 17-09.

In my appearance in Boy Abunda’s “Private Conversations” many years ago, I was asked what’s my idea of being rich, and I replied, “just to have enough money in my wallet to be able to buy a good book I want when I see one.”

I said that because in my struggling days, I would have to save to be able to buy a book I want and by the time I have enough money for it, the book is gone. It was so frustrating.

With credit cards, half of my problem is solved. But there is still the problem of cost. Prices of bookpaper-bound books usually cost about P500. Much higher, up to P1,000 plus, if its hardbound.

At this time of budget scrimping, books usually are the first item to be deleted in the list in favor of the more basic necessities of food, shelter, transport, clothes and cellphone text. Which is a pity because books are nourishment for the mind and soul which is important to be a productive human being.

That’s why the Department of Finance’s idea of imposing taxes on imported books is undesirable. It has the effect of depriving the mind of people in the Philippines of food. It’s not only destroying the people’s wellbeing (what is a person with nothing in his mind) but also the nation’s soul.

An article by Robin Hemley, “The Great Book Blockade of 2009” related that the DOF, which is hardpressed trying to raise funds to sustain Gloria Arroyo’s corruption riddled government, came up with this not-so-brilliant idea when a custom examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of the best-selling novel, “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer. Agulan demanded that duty be paid on the books.

That was a violation of the “Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials” which states that the contracting States (that includes the Philippines) “undertake not to apply customs duties or other charges on, or in connection with, the importation of … books, publications and documents… educational, scientific and cultural materials..”

Last March 24, the DOF issued a clarificatory guideline which imposes one percent rate of duty on educational, scientific, historical or cultural books and materials or five percent rate of duty for books and materials other than educational, scientific, historical or cultural and “those books or raw materials not to be used for publishing and its related activities.”

I have the feeling that these people in the finance department do not read books. That’s dreadful because how does a non-book reading custom official make a distinction which book should have one percent tax or five percent tax?

In a full page open letter to Gloria Arroyo published in newspapers yesterday, members of different book associations said the DOF Order 17-09 not only violates the Florence agreement but also R.A. 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act.

“The imposition of duty on book importations, no matter how minimal, will increase the cost to our readers, which in turn will fundamentally affect the quality of education, literacy and over-all access to information and knowledge. Our young need to be educated and become literate to a high degree to be competitive in the emerging world market. This requires world-class and world-wide access to information and knowledge through books.”

The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) national Commission of the Philippines last Saturday issued a statement objecting to the DOF order.

It noted that “the tax scheme has an inherent anti-poor bias as it is the marginalized sectors that will be most adversely affected by more expensive publications. Taxes on imported books and other publications will definitely widen the ‘knowledge divide’ between the rich and poor sectors of society and therefore run counter to UNESCO’s vision of building an ‘inclusive’ society.

“Taxing imported books is tantamount to taxing reading habits. At a time when parents and educators worldwide have expressed alarm on the continuing steep decline in the reading habits and practices especially among the young, the tax measure is counterproductive to current initiatives to rekindle a reading culture. The measure would surely further discourage young and even old minds from appreciating, recognizing and rediscovering the value of reading.,”

The Commission further said that while they recognize the government’s need for additional revenues, they should refrain from getting it from imported books “that feed the minds especially of our young generation.”

“ Such action can only succeed in taxing our future,” the Commission said.

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Sammy Ong

Ayan, pwede na ipatupad ng mga galamay ni Gloria Arroyo ang kanilang arrest warrant kay dating NBI Director Samuel Ong sa kasong sedition dahil sa kanyang pagsiwalat ng pandaraya ni Gloria Arroyo sa 2004 na eleksyon.

Matagal na nilang pinaghahanap si Ong. Pumunta lang sila sa punerarya kung saan siya nakahimlay..

Siguro masaya na rin ang Court of Appeals na kamakailan lang ay binuhay ang kasong kriminal na serious illegal detention kahit na ibinasura na ni Judge Benjamin Pozon ng Makati Regional Court.

Lalo pa siguro si Arroyo na kahit nabuking sa inilabas na “mother of all tapes” ni Ong na siya mismo ang nagdi-direk ng pandaraya sa eleksyon sa Muslim Mindanao ay namamayagpag pa rin sa Malacañang.

Namatay noong Biyernes si Ong sa Chinese General Hospital. Cardiac arrest ang kanyang ikinamatay. Mga anim na buwan na raw na labas-masok si Ong sa ospital dahil sa kanyang sakit na lung cancer.

Namatay si Ong na biktima ng baluktot na hustisya na pinapairal ng administrasyong Arroyo.

Maala-ala natin na noong Hunyo 10, 2006, lumabas si Ong sa isang press conference sa Metropolitan Club sa Makati at winagayway niya ang orihinal na casette tape ng tinaguriang “Hello Garci”. Nawindang si Arroyo noon at ilang linggo ring hindi siya nakapagsalita (Baka daw mabosesan).

Nang nagsalita siya, iyon na ang “I am sorry.” Hindi alam hanggang ngayon kung ano ang kanyang pinag-sorihan.

Nagkaroon ng demoralisasyon sa military dahil narinig sa pag-uusap ni Arroyo at ng Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano kung sino ang mga militar na tumulong sa kanya sa pandaraya. Ngayon 28 na opisyal kasama ang dalawang may Medal of Valor, ang pinakamataas na medalya sa mga sundalo, ang nakakulong sa bintang na tinangka daw nilang magprotesta kay Arroyo noong Pebrero 2006.

Pagkatapos ng presscon ni Ong sa Metropolitan Club, nagsilong sila sa San Carlos seminary kasama si Master Sgt. Vidal Doble at ang kanyang girlfriend. Pina-alis sila doon at kinuha si Doble ng military.

Kinasuhan si Ong, ang artistang si Rez Cortez, ang driver ni Ong na si Angelito Santiago at ang isang Wilson Fenix ng kidnapping. Pinagpipilit ng pamahalaan na kinidnap daw nina Ong at Cotez si Doble samantalang sinabi mismo ni Doble na hindi siya kinidnap.

Walang piyansa ang kidnapping.

Kaya hindi pa nakakulong sina Ong, Rez, Santiago at Wilson dahil nag-file sila ng motion for reconsideration.

Kahit anong gagawin ni Arroyo, nakau-kit sa paniniwala ng sambayanang Pilipino na siya ay nandaya at nagnakaw ng botong hindi kanya noong 2004 na eleksyon. Para sa katotohanang ‘yan pasalamat tayo kay Sammy Ong.

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Tour of Hope vs cervical cancer


If you have a chance to attend some of the lectures on cervical cancer in the 2009 Tour of Hope, don’t miss it. It might save your life and your loved ones.

The 2009 Tour of Hope kicks off on May 24 at 6:00 in the morning at the Muntinlupa City Hall.

Here’s the schedule of the lectures:

May 24, 2009 Tagaytay City
May 25, 2009 Lipa, Batangas
May 26, 2009 Lucena, Quezon
May 27, 2009 Daet, Camarines Norte
May 28, 2009 Pili, Camarines Sur

The five-day cycling event is an information drive about cervical cancer which has been found to be preventable because it is caused by a virus..

Cervical cancer is caused by a persistent infection with cancer-causing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). However, a simple infection may take 10 to 30 years to progress to cancer, which gives woman ample time to visit her doctor to learn preventive ways to combat this killer disease.

Every two minutes, one woman dies of cervical cancer around the world. In the Philippines, 10 women die everyday of this disease

The Tour of Hope (TTOH) is an international non-profit initiative, made up of like-minded individuals who regularly set up biking tours as a charity project to help in fund raising efforts and awareness campaigns for cervical cancer prevention programs.

Participating groups include Bravehearts, Campaigns-PR, GlaxoSmithKline, Team David’s Salon and the Cancer Institute Foundation, Inc (CIF).

CIF which is a non-stock, non-profit organization whose aim is to support the Cancer Institute of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and its network alliances has been chosen as the major benefactor for the Tour of Hope-Philippines. The Cervical Cancer Prevention (CECAP) Network Program is one of its many major programs, which collaborates with numerous health organizations, both in the government and private sectors such as the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS) and other concerned local and international groups all working to eradicate cervical cancer in the country.

On its second year as a campaign against cervical cancer, the theme for this year’s Tour of Hope is “XXX-Dare to be Bold”. Covering 500 kilometers, it will traverse Southern Luzon from Muntinlupa City all the way to Camarines Sur.

The closing ceremonies for the Tour will be held in CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC), in Pili, Camarines Sur.

For more information on the Tour of Hope, please contact Jimmy G. Sison at (02) 526-69-53 or 0908-373-4520.

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A simple request from climate-change concerned filmmaker

I got a letter from Katrina Encanto, who identified herself as an art director of JWT Manila. I suppose JWT is J Walter Thompson.

She said she needs support in terms of votes for short film she made which she entered in the Youtube Cannes Lions 48 Hour Ad Contest.

Katrina said, “To cast votes for this film, you would need to go to and search for “thecheshirecatgrin”, within the next 10 days or so.”

The link is . The idea here is that you can never understimate the power of a petition.

She said she made the film “to convince people to sign for action against Climate Change, particularly by getting world leaders to attend the UN Summit for Climate Change at Copenhagen in December, and agree on a deal that would help reverse the effects of climate change”

This is her film:

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Wanted: sanctuary for Gadian

gadian The Supreme Court yesterday granted the petition of the sister of Navy Lt. Nancy Gadian for a writ of amparo. What now?

Upon receipt of the order, Harry Roque, counsel for Nedia Diamante, sister of Lt. Gadian who filed the petition last Tuesday before the Supreme Court, informed the High Court that he has advised Gadian to seek temporary sanctuary at the Supreme Court in the absence of an accredited sanctuary.” (Download urgent-motion-for-sanctuary)

“She should find her way to the Supreme Court, introduce herself and seek sanctuary there,” Roque said.

In a statement, the Philippine Navy said with the Supreme Court order, “we hope Lt. Gadian will finally face the Investigation Committee formed by the Secretary of the Department of National Defense to substantiate her serious allegation of corruption of Balikatan ‘07 fund that has dragged the AFP into a controversy.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Defense Department are now doing everything to prevent this Gadian case from escalating into another NBN/ZTE level of scandal. They have reasons to worry about with protests rallies being planned on and before May 27, the 10th anniversary of the ratification of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, which outlines the status of American soldiers in the Philippines during Balikatan exercises, the disbursement of the funds of which is the root of the case against Gadian.

At the confirmation of the new AFP Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado last Wednesday, a number of questions asked of him were on the Gadian case.

One lesson the military authorities can learn from this case this early is, never ignore a complaint regardless of how junior in rank the complainant is.

Diamante said as early as 2007, when Gadian was being investigated she wrote to then AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon seeking help for her sister.

Part of Diamante’s letter to Esperon read, “I am writing to you about the problem of my younger sister… because we all know in the family that the matter should be brought t your attention being the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We resorted into writing you a letter Sir, because we feel that you are the only one who could help her and the family as well.”

Diamante also told Esperon, “If not for the advice of the people who have known my sister for quite sometime, she could have resorted into other things that will put the entire AFP organization in a bad light… We know for sure that my sister knows a lot of things in the AFP and she might come out into the open.”

Diamante said she never got a reply from Esperon. Last May 11, she went to the office of Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and delivered a five-page letter of her sister.

In that letter Gadian refuted the charges against her. Part of her letter said, “ Over the years, Balikatan Exercises have been conducted in the Philippines and over the years millions of money have been spent for nothing. And who benefitted the most? The high-ranking officials of the AFP. Only a centavo went to the operating troops on the ground, but worst scenario is that nothing went to them and only a meager amount went to support the projects.

“For 2007 alone, the CMO Events have only a total of P2.3 released to support the entire CMO activities in Mindanao. These funds went as far as the foot soldiers on the ground because I have personally seen their sufferings and it is but proper that they will receive what is supposed to be entitled to them.

“During my term as the OIC of the CMO Fusion Cell, I made sure that everything will be placed in order. But it really so hurting that after what I have done, I find myself as the one being charged because of some flaws in the system….”

Upon instruction of the office of Archbishop Lagdameo, Diamante met with Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo yesterday. I don’t know yet if they talked about sanctuary for Nancy.

Atty. Roque said the main objective of their seeking protection for Gadian from the High Court is to enable her to make public whatever the public wants to know about the funds of Balikatan exercises. So far, two weeks after this issue was brought out in media, we have seen no documents or details about the allegations of misuse of Balikatan funds. The AFP, in fact, has said that the whole P46 million is accounted for including the P2.7 alleged to have been misused by Gadian.

The Supreme Court order, hopefully, would lead us to the truth about this issue.

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