Thursday, July 31, 2008

SONA and the VAT

In my last post, I wrote that GMA needs VAT in order to support her band-aid projects. Let me expound on the matter.

In her SONA, GMA was firm on her decision to continue imposing VAT. Explaining her stand, she said:
Kapag ibinasura ang VAT sa langis at kuryente, ang mas makikinabang ay ang mga may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84% ng langis at 90% ng kuryente habang mas masasaktan ang mahihirap na mawawalan ng P80 billion para sa mga programang pinopondohan ngayon ng VAT. Take away VAT and we strip our people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis.
It is basic that tax is the lifeblood of the government. Equally basic is that people avoid tax like the plague. Thus, GMA is in an unenviable position of justifying an unpopular tax measure. This may have prompted her to follow up her previous statement with:
We have come too far and made too many sacrifices to turn back now on fiscal reforms. Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard.
Yes, it has been four years since her 2004 SONA wherein she revealed our budget deficit problem, which led Congress to pass several tax laws (including the revised VAT). Yet, we are nowhere near solving our budget deficit problem. Instead of doing what is truly necessary as she herself espouses, she has actually done the first easy things that come to her mind.

Instead of using the VAT windfall for meaningful projects, she has used the extra revenue for short-sighted projects.

To be more specific, the government is planning to use (or is actually using) VAT windfalls for the following and like projects:
1. P500 power subsidy to lifeline power users in Metro Manila;
2. Fertilizer subsidy to farmers amounting to P37.8 million;
3. Proposed fuel subsidy to public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers amounting to P3.3 billion; and
4. Food-for-school program

See the pattern? All are stop-gap measures to stem the people's discontent for the moment. And all, except perhaps for the fertilizer subsidy, are merely dole-outs.

It is clear that these programs are populist moves in order to show the people that there are things being done on the most pressing issues of this year: electricity, oil and food (On a side note, it's funny that despite these populist programs, GMA has remained hugely unpopular). However, there is the concern that these programs will die a natural death once these pressing issues become old news. And at this early stage, the administration's most visible program, the food-for-school program, has been scaled down.

Moreover, these programs will not change the fact that these people will continue to live a food-to-mouth existence. It will not change the number of people below poverty line. Despite the seemingly good intentions, these people will remain poor until genuine reforms are implemented.

If the government is not going to use the VAT windfalls for vital projects, maybe it would be better if the imposition of VAT is lifted. The people can find better use for the money in these hard times.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2008 SONA: The Report Card

I couldn' resist not watching GMA's 2008 SONA. Maybe it's because I'm predisposed to fairy tales ever since I was a kid. The only difference is that in the kinds that I grew up reading and watching, the good guys won. But that's another story.

So I missed my class to watch the SONA, with a truckload of salt beside me for good measure.

If i were to grade this year's SONA, I would give the follwing marks:
Form: A
Delivery: A
Reflection to Reality: D

I have to give it to GMA and her ghostwriter. The speech was well-written, and GMA delivered it perfectly. If I were a foreigner hearing GMA speak for the first time, I would have had the impression that the Philippines is a burgeoning nation teeming with potential. But that is not the case.

The people are mired in poverty, and are likely to stay that way amidst the rising fuel and commodity prices. The programs are ineffective in providing genuine solutions to our problems. At most, the proposals to the problems are merely band-aid solutions - give the people the impression that the government is actually doing something, only to be forgotten when the hottest issue of the day cools down.

Moreover, the SONA is full of dubious facts that will make you think if you're living in the same country as that being illustrated by GMA so glowingly. 65 million Filipinos covered in health insurance? Really now. Increasing profit of a jeepney operator and a rural folk? Surely, this must be the exception to the rule. I was munching on spoonfuls of salt as I was hearing this.

At best, Gloria was most honest when she declared that VAT will have to stay. It's no surprise really, because she needs VAT as cash cow. After all, if VAT is taken away, where will she get the funds for her band-aid projects?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Napaso sa SONA

I distinctly remember Gloria Arroyo's 2001 State of the Nation Address. We were required in our Political Science class to make a reaction paper on the said SONA, so I had to watch the whole proceeding. But more than that, I really wanted to hear GMA's first SONA, since she held so much promise then.

I remember writing in my reaction paper that the speech took off on a cheesy start. There s really no need to include the Payatas kids (and their bankang papel) in the speech. No need for dramatics for a SONA, I wrote.

Then I praised GMA for thinking like an economist that she is. I wrote that Arroyo had clear goals- S.M.A.R.T. goals (Developed by Peter Drucker, S.M.A.R.T. stands for: Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-bound).

Fast forward to 2008, the goals of Arroyo way back in 2001 still remain to be goals. No, not goals - they are more accurately described as pipe dreams.

In fact, it seems that the State has gone the opposite direction. Take for instance, Gloria's preliminary statements:
Napakalinaw, napakasimple ang hiling ng mga anak ng Payatas: Trabaho, edukasyon, sariling tahanan. Idagadag na rin: Pagkain sa bawat mesa. Ito ang mithiin ng masa.

And this, in common sense and plain talk, is the core of my vision.

Yes, there is employment. But you have to go to POEA first before you find one that can actually support a family.

Yes, there is education - the quality of which no decent president can really be proud of.

Yes, there are homes. But the government cannot really take credit for it, since Gawad Kalinga has borne the brunt of the work, effort and initiative.

And no, there is no food on the table.

Gloria has been in office for seven and a half years. She has already delivered seven SONAs. I can genuinely say, without any exaggeration whatsoever, that my family's standing in life has gone for the worse while she was in office.

So maybe I'll follow Erap's example: stay away from this year's SONA and not waste my time to listen to a "fairy tale story."

Pasong paso na kasi ako sa mga SONA ni Gloria e.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taking The Street to Another Level

This Sesame Street sing-along is not for your kids.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

MRT Sardines

Metro Rail Transit (more famously known as MRT), running from North Avenue to Taft Avenue along the stretch of EDSA, is indispensable for urban commuters. It provides fast, reliable and affordable mode of transportation along EDSA.

But for the past month, there has been a marked increase in the number of passengers in MRT. This is understandable, because of increasing bus and jeepney fares. Unfortunately, MRTA's service has not improved contemporaneous to the increase in the number of passengers. In fact, it has deteriorated even more.

Whereas before when a train arrives every 10 minutes or so, now you can be forced to wait for 20 or more minutes. I know, because I missed some classes because of this *minor* change. The once-reliable MRT has become unreliable. If you're planning to ride the MRT, give yourself a 30-minute allowance, just to make sure.

But the bigger problem is that the service will probably not improve anytime soon. The Manila Times reports that there is a conflict brewing between MRTA (the government side) and MRTC (composed of private persons/corporations which built the whole thing and own the assets).

At best, "The additional trains are expected to be delivered by 2009 and will be operational by 2010." At best.

But that is too long a wait. Much like the wait for the next train that MRT passengers have to endure.

Let's just hope MRT does not end up like this:Photo: Danumurthi Mahendra, Creative Commons, Flickr

Friday, July 25, 2008

Recto and NEDA

There are many howls of protest when Ralph Recto was appointed as NEDA chief.

NEDA, of course, has not yet recovered from the ZTE scandal. It is now widely perceived as a corrupt agency.

On the other hand, the appointment of Ralph Recto is suspiciously viewed by some as a consolation for him being in the administration's senatorial ticket last year.

If this appointment was made two years ago, this would not cause the same furor as it has today.

After all, Recto is suitable for the job *on paper*.

But more than the qualifications, what is more imperative is for the new NEDA chief to be above suspicion. It is not just about Recto's competence, it is also about his integrity.

So is Recto up to it? We'll see in due time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green Pinoy

No, this is not a post about the environment.

I'd just like to share

If you want to start your day (or end your day, for that matter) with a little smile on your face, visit the site. I'm sure you're gonna find something funny.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Diesel Rollback

The P1.50 diesel rollback is a welcome relief. Yes, it's a measly amount. Yes, the price was rolled back after the oil companies increased the diesel prices by P3. But it's better than nothing, right?

So I don't understand why some groups are still criticizing the move. A slash on prices is a slash on prices. It's not as if the oil companies are artificially inflating the prices. There is a real increase in fuel prices that each and everyone of us must endure.

As to the claim in an Inquirer report that "MalacaƱang will, of course, take credit for the so-called rollback since it desperately wants to score brownie points just before Arroyo delivers her Sona," who cares, really? Who will believe her anyway?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Oil Price Problem

First off, I'm not in any way connected to any petroleum company. I do not work for one, nor am I a fan of one. I am not related (by direct line, or by 4th degree of consanguinity or affinity) to any person working for one. The only association that I can think of between me and oil, is the one being taken off my face by an oil control strip. That being cleared up, let's look at the problem objectively.

We are faced with the fuel problem. What do we do?

First option: repeal the Oil Deregulation law. But in my opinion, Oil deregulation is out of the question. At a time when other countries are deregulating their oil industry (because of the unreasonable burden to the public coffers), many camps in the Philippines are clamoring for regulating our oil industry. That is simply unwise. We deregulated way back in the 90s because of mounting costs to subsidize the people's fuel needs. A regulated oil industry is akin to a trojan horse - it may look like a gift, but what will happen to us if the government revenues are not enough to meet our gas-guzzling needs, among other things? It will surely haunt us in case the country's fiscal health collapses.

Second: the non-imposition of VAT in petroleum products is a more plausible solution. If the government decides to do so, our P60++ gas price will be reduced by P6 or so. It is a big help. But I don' think the government is willing to do so. When VAT was imposed on oil products, the gas price was only P20-30 then. But since then, the world prices has quadrupled, an our local oil prices was doubled. Which means that the government has inadvertently doubled its revenue from oil without any effort on its part. And because of the inelastic nature of oil products, the people have no choice but to buy it. So the government will be really reluctant to let go of this cash cow.

The third option is to appeal to the oil companies' hearts. This is far-fetched, since corporations are heartless entities (I mean that literally, not figuratively). But at the very least, we can appeal to them to price their products according to the market movement. Which means that they will not hastily increase the prices when there is a scare in the world market, and they will not slowly decrease their prices when the world market prices have decreased. In other words, let's just hope to high heavens that they will not take advantage of the situation by trying to milk more money from the people just so they can increase the dividends of their stockholders. Sounds just fair, right? But this is an appeal that would probably be left unheeded.

Fourth option: ride a bicycle on the way to work.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where the hell is Matt

I just want to share a pretty cool video showing one Matt Harding in different places around the globe doing a goofy looking dance.

At first I thought it was a fake. But a second (and third, and fourth...) look led me to the conclusion that the video is authentic.

And then it hit me - this is one beautiful and humongous project. I too, would like to do something like that in my lifetime (minus the goofy dance).

There is already a 2008 video just recently released(Tagaytay was included), but I think the 2006 video is better. See the 2006 version below.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Man fakes heart attack in court"

The defendant (who was representing himself) was examining a witness when he suddenly dropped to the ground, apparently having a heart attack. The judge did not buy it. You wouldn't be too when the defendant became wide awake after inhaling smelling salts.

I smell a contempt around the corner...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Enduring High Oil Prices

A funny thing happened on my way home yesterday. I was riding a jeepney when it suddenly stalled in the middle of the road. The culprit? The jeep ran out of fuel. And irony of ironies, the jeep stalled just across a gas station. When later asked by an irate passenger on why he didn't have the tank filled much earlier, the driver just said, "ang mahal na kasi ng diesel e. Nasasayangan akong magpakarga ng malaki." The jeepney driver didn't want to spend too much on diesel, despite the fact that he will have to buy more sooner or later. I think he bought fuel tingi style just to get that perception of saving a few bucks.

But that, my friends, is the big story in the world - rising oil prices. As of now, there seems to be nothing anyone could do to reverse the trend. So we'll just have to endure rising oil prices in the coming weeks (or months! or years!). Inevitably, prices of other commodities will follow the upward trend (Read this post of a Malaysian blogger to know the implications of higher oil prices for Asia). It seems that everything will go up, except for my allowance (and my grades, but that is another matter). All I can do is sigh.

Photo: azrainman, Creative Commons, Flickr

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Random Thought: Iterate and Reiterate

Did you know that iterate and reiterate have the same meaning? They mean: to say or do again or again and again.

Ergo, saying that you "reiterate once more" is superfluous. So is "repeat again." Lawyers and even the Court are prone to such redundancy. Don't believe me? Click the link and search for the term highlighted for examples.

Needless to say, stating that you "iterate, reiterate and repeat again once more for the second time around" is stressing your point a tad too much.

Photo: sutefani in orlando, Creative Commons, Flickr

Friday, July 4, 2008

Ways to be Disbarred

Lawyers, in their infinite wisdom, find ingenious ways to get themselves booted off the profession. Listed below are just some of the examples. Mind you, this is not an exhaustive list. There is more than one way to skin a cat, as they say. But you'll get the idea of what not to do if you're a lawyer in the following instances:

Keeping a mistress, entering into another marriage while a prior one still subsists, as well as abandoning and/or mistreating your wife and children (Tapucar v. Tapucar);

Receiving from an adverse party money pursuant to an amicable settlement, but never giving the proceeds to your client. (Resureccion v. Sayson);

Taking advantage of the law profession in committing the crime of falsification of public document to defraud your clients. (In Re AvanceƱa);

Having an illicit relationship with a married woman and her niece at the same time. (Royong v. Oblena);

Misrepresenting yourself to be a bachelor, then marrying your very powerful and influential client's daughter. (Cojuangco v. Palma);

Entering into multiple marriages and then resorting to legal remedies to sever them (Macarrubo v. Macarrubo);

Borrowing from the clerk of court the folder containing the adverse party's evidence, surreptitiously tearing off two pages, crumpling the papers and placing them inside your pocket. (Fernandez v. Grecia);

Raping your neighbor's wife (Calub v. Suller);

Through attrocious maneuvers, successfully delaying the disposition of an estate settlement for thirty-eight (38) years (Re: Administrative Case no. 44 of RTC, Branch IV, Tagbilaran);

Continuing to practice despite being disbarred [Technically, you're not going to be disbarred anymore, because you were already disbarred, but you are subject to contempt] (San Luis v. Pineda);

Extorting money from his client through deceit and misrepresentation (Docena v. Limon);

Swindling your client (Villanueva v. Sta. Ana).

Photo: kevindooley, Creative Commons, Flickr

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Suing Sulpicio

There is no need to hire the services of a lawyer because the claims will be acted upon with dispatch and with as simple documentation as possible.
- Sulpicio Lines Announcement

I am normally in favor of compromises. I think it's best to avoid lawsuits because they're messy, and the contending parties usually end up being poorer after the long fight.

But this time, I'm making a big exception. To the kins of the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy: sue Sulpicio's ass!

A criminal conviction is highly unlikely. Officers of corporations in the Philippines seldom get convicted of criminal wrongdoing. A criminal conviction of the officers of a high-profile corporation is even rarer.

But a civil action for damages against the corporation can cripple them financially. A ruling in favor of the victims will not be hard to obtain, in my opinion. As a common carrier, Sulpicio is bound to exercise extraordinary diligence, which it obviously failed to do. There is already a presumption that it is at fault or has acted negligently, since scores of death and injury to passengers stare us right in the face.

Claiming the P200,000 and signing the quitclaim will end the fight against the (ir)responsible company. Sue the owners and ask for exorbitant damages. Hurt them where it will hurt them most - in their pockets.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Tragicomedy that is Sulpicio

Wanna have a laugh? Go to Sulipcio Lines' website. A tongue-in-cheek statement at its best:

Equipped with the experience, knowledge and dominant presence in marine transportation and the continuing determination to excel, Sulpicio Lines in the 21 st century aims to further strengthen its position as the most reliable provider of quality service and customer satisfaction.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Take a break: Father and Son

A fresh young lawyer took over the cases of his aging father, who was likewise a lawyer.

One of them is an inheritance case which has dragged on for fifteen years.

The young lawyer wanted to impress his father, so he finished the case in just under a year.

He relayed the news to his father. But instead of the expected tap on the back from his dad, he got a slap to the nape.

"Why did you do that for?" asked the perplexed youngster.

Still seething, the old lawyer answered, "You fool! I kept that case alive for you so that you can milk it like I did! And now it's gone! Didn't you know that that case put you through college and lawschool?!?"
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