By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The Aquino administration is about to finish its fourth year and yet, the country is nowhere near the nirvana of corruption-free government acting on the best interests of the Filipino people, which was the campaign promise of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap.”
Has corruption been eradicated? Have all corrupt officials been brought before the bar of justice? Are the Filipino people happy and assured that the government is acting on their best interest?
Consider the following:
1. Aside from the hospital arrest of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the “arrest” of Janet Lim Napoles, the impending plunder charges to be filed against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla, and the sacking of two deputy directors of the National Bureau of Investigation – with no explanation on the causes for such except that they allegedly have integrity and trust issues and that they are political appointees and thus could be relieved anytime – nothing much has been accomplished during the last four years in making those accountable for corruption pay for their crimes and no high ranking official either from the former Arroyo administration and much less, the current Aquino government has been convicted because of corruption.
Are there only three alleged corrupt lawmakers from among the total of 24 senators and 250 representatives of the Lower House? Sure, the Aquino government claims that some of Aquino’s allies would be included in the second batch of lawmakers to be charged with plunder. But it took the Aquino government four years and several whistleblowers before it began to pursue the three opposition senators. Worse, charges of irregularities involving members of Aquino’s official family are dismissed outright, ignored, or the controversial official is merely asked to resign without even a reprimand.
2. Two persons on different sides of corruption scam cases have opposite fortunes: Janet Lim Napoles, a major operator in the pork barrel scam involving legislators, some former Cabinet officials, and fake NGOs received a lot of perks from the Aquino government including being fetched by no less than Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, brought to Malacañang and met with President Aquino, who even acted as advance party to Camp Crame to ensure her security; she continues to be detained in a bungalow unit in Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna – which was used by former president Joseph Estrada – with the government spending P150,000 ($3,300) a month for her enhanced detention, which includes her own food taster. This does not include the expenses for her hearings and medical check-ups where she is being escorted by a lot of police officers and provided with a bulletproof vest. The justification of the Aquino government for this special treatment is that the information that she would give is crucial to the pursuit of those involved in the pork barrel scam. But up to now, even in her appearances during Senate hearings, she never gives an indication that she would name names and still, she gets the special treatment. Why?
On the other end, Senior Supt. Conrad Capa, who used to head police Task Force Tugis, which captured fugitive Delfin Lee of Global Asiatique, was removed from the task force and received a transfer order a week after Lee’s arrest. Lee is facing charges of syndicated estafa for conning people into buying condominium units that, in cahoots with Pagibig officials, were named to fictitious persons who were issued loans by the quasi-government agency. Recently, during the graduation ceremonies of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), President Aquino castigated Capa, without naming him directly, for doing a disservice to the PNP by airing out in media his opposition to his transfer by PNP Director General Alan Purisima and by insinuating that Delfin Lee’s backers in the Aquino government are responsible for his sacking. Reports revealed that immediately after Lee’s arrest, the treasurer of President Aquino’s Liberal Party and current Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali called up PNP Director General Purisima to inquire about Lee.
3. In a gmanews.tv report, Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar complained that “influential people” are protecting Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol, who he accused of attempting to extort $30 million from a Czech firm in exchange for a supply contract in July 2012. Ambassador Rychtar said that he reported the extortion attempt to Secretary Jun Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications in a two-hour meeting in April 2013, but nothing happened. The last time Ambassador Rychtar heard from Secretary Abaya was when the latter scolded him over the phone after reports came out that the President’s sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and her husband Eldon Cruz were involved in the extortion attempt.
4. The pork barrel system has not been totally eradicated. It is still included in the 2014 national budget, even if lawmakers were asked to submit proposed projects beforehand; and President Aquino adamantly refuses to let go of the discretionary funds being handled by the Office of the President such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the Malampaya funds, among others.
5. Last March 7, a Manila Bulletin report was published by yahoo news revealing that not one from among Filipinos who landed in Forbes list of billionaires (in US dollars and not in pesos) were in the top 10 taxpayers in the country in 2012. The weird thing is that Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares even defended them saying that they pay more taxes in capital gains taxes and withholding taxes on bank interests on their deposits. (Huh? Am I missing something in that explanation?) Other BIR officials said the salaries that these billionaires receive from the companies they own are lower than what movie and TV personalities receive thus accounting for their lower income taxes. (Say what? Are they saying that popular TV personalities such as Kim Chiu or Anne Curtis are richer than Henry Sy of SM or Lucio Tan or Enrique Razon?)
There is more. Interaksyon.com reported today April 3 that 39 from among the country’s top 100 corporations are also not in the BIR’s list of top 500 non-individual taxpayers in 2012. Out of the 39, eight reportedly did not pay any income tax because of the tax perks it receives and one did not file any income tax. And to think, small businesses have been complaining about how their reports to the BIR have been passing through the proverbial eye of the needle and how sudden changes in policies, such as the requirement for new receipts, among others, have been making life difficult for them. Also, one could not forget the controversial BIR television advertisement showing a doctor being carried on the shoulders of a teacher, which appears to put doctors in a bad light by portraying them as being a burden to others because they purportedly do not pay the right taxes.
These could only mean two things: something is terribly wrong with the country’s taxation system or something is fishy in the BIR’s tax collections. The EVAT itself is a very regressive taxation system where the ordinary consumer shoulders the taxes of businesses through the pass-on system. Also, much like in the US, where Republicans refuse to increase taxes on corporations and the rich, the country provides a lot of perks to corporations and rich businessmen and tries to cover tax collection shortfalls by running after ordinary taxpayers and small and medium businesses (SMEs). One could also not discount the probability of a rich businessman who has been assessed a tax liability of say P45 million ($1 million) being able to negotiate to shell out instead P22.5 million ($500 thousand), in a situation where everybody involved benefits from it.