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Poverty and taxes

Today, April 15, is the deadline for payment of 2018 income taxes. There is no extension -- better file your income tax returns (ITR) or else, for even one day later, you suffer the one-time 25% penalty/surcharge plus 20% interest per annum until payment. You must pay income taxes through a BIR-accredited agent bank (AAB) who will credit BIR with your payment. Mind that whether you have taxable income or none, or if you have a computer or access to a computer or not, you have to separately file an electronic ITR, to immediately and officially register your filing with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). You can go to any BIR “E-lounge” for assistance and guidance on the filing of your ITR, but you will still have to pay first (if you have any tax to pay) through an AAB before electronic filing. No escape except death (though your heirs cannot escape inheritance taxes either).

For universal health care: No pork

A colonoscopy cum endoscopy at a private hospital cost a total of P67,500: P5,000 for the ultrasound, P25,000 for the hospital procedures, P25,000 for the doctor and P12,500 for the anesthesiologist. The self-employed young professional with no special health insurance (only PhilHealth) could hardly afford this. PhilHealth stepped in for P5,400 deductible from the patient’s bill, 8% of total, but that did not go to her. The 30% of P5,400 is for refund to the doctor of Professional Fees (PF) over what was billed to the patient and 70% is refunded to the hospital on top of what was charged to the patient. For surgical cases, it would be 40% for PF and 60% for hospital costs. Crazy, but it feels like PhilHealth is for doctors and hospitals, and not for patients, because patients don’t see, feel and touch the PhilHealth “refund.” It is like a flat “commission” paid for services rendered by doctors and hospitals -- while they would still have the freedom to charge higher than the PhilHealth maximum base rates per the immutable chart of coverable diseases and procedures. Since September 2011, PhilHealth started implementing its policy of paying fixed rates or fixed amounts to accredited hospitals and clinics for 11 medical cases and 11 surgical cases charted under its reimbursement scheme called Case Rates Payment (workingpinoy.com June 2, 2014). Refunds have been cut down drastically from 2003, since deductibles (purportedly for the patient, but actually a “bonus” to doctors and hospitals) have been whittled down. Poor patient!

The Phoenix on the Nile

Egypt is an old soul in an old body that would not die. The idea of mummification is 3,100 years old, Egyptologist-archeologist Mohammed Abdel Aziz (not Arabian, not African, but proudly Egyptian) says, as he points up to the heavens to emphasize Eternity. In Saqqara, north of Memphis, there are 118 pyramids to house the sarcophagi of mummified pharaohs and noblemen. The Djoser pyramid capped with luminescent limestone to mimic the rays of the morning sun towers 62 meters (203 feet) but still the Khufu pyramid of Giza, the largest Egyptian pyramid and one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, reaches up an awesome 146.7 meters (481 feet). A narrow shaft that comes from the pinnacle to the burial chamber directs the sunlight to the deceased pharaoh’s mummified body and lifts his soul to the heavens and to the gods. It is the story of Resurrection and Eternal Life.

The banks always win

Big banks posted another banner year in 2018, with profits growing by a tenth at a time of higher borrowing costs and a weaker peso. Total operating income grew by 14.9% to P564.202 billion from P491.227 billion the past year, central bank data showed (BusinessWorld Feb. 11, 2019).

Who’s to blame for the Metro Manila water crisis?

“Many areas in the metro have experienced weak to no water supply, with some areas having people line up for hours to get water from tankers,” BusinessWorld reported, as all other media did, in the anxiety of worse to come. The people are angry.

Changes at the Bangko Sentral

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno is the new Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) effective March 4, 2019.

Learning to trust fintech

“Here’s your credit card, Ma’am, no need to sign the charge slip for payments below P2,000,” the waiter at her favorite Italian restaurant says to the lady-lawyer, a regular diner. “But I want to sign the charge slip,” she insists. “See here, there is a blank space for the tip to be given, if the customer wanted the tip to be included in the credit card charge -- how would I know if an outrageous tip amount was added by someone without my knowledge? How can I prove, should I question my credit card statement, that I did not write in a tip on the charge slip?”

EDSA is not colored yellow

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution (EDSA I). “It commemorates the peaceful demonstrations that occurred in 1986 and led to the overthrow of the corrupt rule of President Ferdinand Marcos....In previous years, 25 February was a work holiday, but today, the Monday nearest that date is a holiday only for school,” a travel service website informs interested tourists (https://publicholidays.ph).

Talk about something else

Let’s not talk about Maria Ressa. What if she was arrested for “cyber libel” at the Rappler office by the National Bureau of Investigation day before Valentine’s Day, just before 5 p.m., the cutoff time for courts to process bail payments? Harassment? What’s “cyber libel,” anyway? We are becoming inured to all sorts of fake news and bad language on social media, as we are numbed to virulent cursing and swearing, public shaming and outright accusations on national mass media.

Primogeniture in family business

Primogeniture: the state of being firstborn of the same parents. In common practice since time immemorial in most cultures, the eldest child, most often specified to be the oldest male offspring, inherits real property and the family business. Is that still so in our culture?

‘Pork’ in the Year of the Pig

O, ano, let me see if you know, the priest says in his homily at Mass. What is 2019 the Year of? His audience triumphantly chorused: “The Year of the Pig!” Shame on you, the good father admonished. It is always “The Year of the Lord.” And all laughed heartily at themselves.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

The House of Representatives has reconsidered. Instead of lowering the age of criminality for children down to nine years old as originally proposed by then-Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez in November 2016, the lawmakers approved on second reading last week the substitute bill lowering the minimum age of social responsibility of child offenders to 12 years old from the current 15 years old under Republic Act 9344 as amended by RA 10630 (CNN Philippines, Jan. 24, 2019).

The mysterious death of Hanjin

In January last year, Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines (HHIC) delivered to the French Maritime Freighting Company, CMA CGM S.A., fourth-largest container company in the world, its flagship Antoine de Saint Exupery, its largest container ship (with a deck of three football fields combined) and the largest Europe-based ship in the world (World Maritime News, Jan. 5, 2018). Made in the Philippines, at the 326-hectare HHIC shipyard in Redondo peninsula, north of Subic Bay, Zambales.

Shut out, shut in; shut down, shut up

Shut out Mexico, US President Donald Trump insists. It had been his campaign promise from back in 2016 to “Build that wall” along the 1,954 miles (3,145 km) US border with Mexico to keep out illegal entrants into the US. We’ll make Mexico pay for it, Trump boasted then (BBC, Jan. 26, 2016). How could he have ever expected Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to happily say “Si!” to a wall pre-paid by Mexico to shut out Mexico from the US? “Mexico doesn’t believe in walls,” Nieto expectedly said on national television, and of course he would not spend up to $25 billion to shut Mexico out (BBC, Jan. 26, 2017).

May 2019 be a good year

Happy New Year, Manay! May 2019 be a good year. What’s a good year, she says?

For whom the bells toll

When after 117 years, the three Balangiga bells taken as war booty by the US Army in 1901 were returned to Samar Island, there was victorious jubilation on the Philippine side. In the crack of the Balangiga clash in the midst of the Philippine American War, bolo-wielding Filipino insurgents won over the superiorly equipped American infantry. It is said that in rabid retaliation for the 48 of 74 men of Company C who were ambushed and killed while at breakfast, the US reportedly massacred more than 2,500 of the village people. Historians cannot agree on the numbers. But of course history is written by the victors and rewritten by the losers if given a chance.

The OPC dons the corporate veil

The bicameral conference committee in Congress has approved the reconciled version amending the 38-year-old Corporation Code of the Philippines to improve the country’s business climate for large and small businesses and to make it easier for investors to set up businesses (The Philippine Star, Nov. 28, 2018).

A divorce settlement for Brexit

When the no-frills, no-nonsense British Prime Minister Theresa May crossed to center-stage dancing, raised hands swaying to the languid swing of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” it all said something was terribly amiss. It was in October, at the Conservative Party’s conference. Despite the standing ovation (the only polite and “veddy-British” response expected) to the somewhat awkward dancing, the matter to be discussed by May at the conference was not as forgivably acceptable. She was standing for approval of her planned UK transition deal with the European Union (EU) through to the end of 2020, after the March 29, 2019 effectivity of the British withdrawal (Brexit) from the EU, as signified by the UK in June 2016.

The rainbow after the rain

“At the end of the rainbow, you’ll find a pot of gold,” the old song goes. The rainbow points to where, in folklore, the leprechauns buried their riches.

Doi Mòi in Viet Nam

A larger-than-life concrete statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands on the rotunda just beyond the Thành pho? Ho Chí Minh, the City Hall, more formally called the People’s Committee Building. It is as if the Holy Mother had stepped out of the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saigon behind her, the twin-belfry cathedral built by the French colonizers between 1863 and 1880. Noisy vehicles and pedestrians swirled around her to the main artery road Nguyen Thi Minh Kai and its tree-lined tributary roads. But there are only about six million Catholics in communist Vietnam, representing just 7% of the total population.

Rankings, ratings and rantings

“We demand that the World Bank (WB) review the Philippines’ rating, and make a correction immediately given our country’s increases in the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) scores, which was, unfortunately, offset by the grossly inaccurate and understated findings in the Getting Credit indicator of the Report.

Sic transit gloria mundi

At the Libingan on All Saints Day, a widow and her daughter prayed before the plain white cross that marked the grave of a young officer, who more than four decades ago was killed in action in Jolo, at the height of the Mindanao war over the dictator Marcos’s inconsistent strategies for peace. There are few officers like him, the widow’s best friend, a general’s wife, once told her. Surely without malice, she added: it might as well be that your husband died early; who knows what he might have become, had he lived some years more?

Let the third telco come naturally

There was already a third telecommunications company “telco” to the Globe Telecom and Smart Telecom “duopoly.” In August 2010, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) bought Bell Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. (BellTel) and set up Vega Telecoms, to challenge the emerging duopoly of Globe and Smart (philstar.com, Aug. 17, 2010).

The best of times, the worst of times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” -- A Tale of Two Cities (1859) by Charles Dickens

Innovation in the business ecosystem

Changes by man to survive and improve himself and his environment are recorded in history as Civilization. In the 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years of the earth’s estimated existence, spontaneous changes in nature and intervening changes by the biblical “all creatures big and small” developed interdependencies that bonded groups and communities with similar ways and common concerns. In their “ecosystems” or close environment, all co-evolve in competition and collaboration on available resources, and the joint adaptation to external disruptions.

Scare tactics on the young

Never Again! It has been branded in the hearts of those who experienced martial law that never again should Filipinos have to bear the killings, torture, plunder and other transgressions of human rights by a dictator and his politicized military. And the younger generations must know about these, and know all in truth -- not in the revisionist telling of inveterate liars, who have benefitted from martial law, changed loyalties to succeeding democratic leaders, and are now changing coats again, back to dictator-type governance.

What if most want political dynasties?

At last Wednesday’s forum at the University of the Philippines BGC, “Understanding Federalism and its Implications (Part Two), two of the most knowledgeable speakers on Federalism, Dr. Ronald U. Mendoza, Dean, Ateneo School of Government, and Atty. Florin T. Hilbay, Associate Professor, University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, lectured to members and guests of the sponsors: the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), with the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) and Judicial Reform Initiative (JRI).

Please pass the butter

“Name me one person that was arrested because of political or religious belief during that period. None. Name me one person that was arrested simply because he criticized President Marcos. None,” former Senate President Juan “Johnny” Ponce Enrile told former Senator Bongbong Marcos, the only son of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos (philstar.com Sept. 21, 2018)

Questions on TRAIN 2 a.k.a. TRABAHO

When the inflation rate of 6.4% for August was finally announced by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last week, there was a storm of fears that lashed stronger than the most powerful typhoon of the season (Signal No. 4), “Ompong” that trashed northern Philippines and rained heavily the whole weekend on the rest of Luzon.

Can amnesty be revoked?

IN martial law, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos could do anything. And he focused on the military to help him do anything.

Available rice for tolerable poverty

Mang Pedro, temporary construction helper, married, father of three, could not even afford the P38-lunch sold on the sidewalk. He squatted in a corner, away from the other workers boisterously competing for the bigger slices and the more generous-looking rice portions of Aling Rosa’s food. He carefully opened his “baon” (packed lunch). It was plain boiled white rice — but twice the quantity of Aling Rosa’s serving. No viand. Over the rice, he squeezed the ketchup from the frayed foil packet that he picked up from a fast food outlet.

What does ‘move on’ really mean?

SYNTAX and grammar insinuate that “move on” is a verb in the imperative mood (a command), which is why there is a frightening ocean of meaning that separates the speaker from the spoken-to, by the very utterance of this. “Move on” is best just a resolution to be whispered to oneself as one would acknowledge one’s own wrong choices or actions, and plan what to do next. But it is an arrogant breach of personal boundaries when someone else tells another to “Move on,” especially if that other has been the victim of that someone who has caused pain and loss. It is the brutal last kick in the dust. It reeks too much of the despotic commands of oppressive martial law.

A play for the budget

“What’s the play?” In Filipino-speak, “Ano ang laro?” It means there’s a lot of double-speak, so to try to understand, one will have to analyze actions versus words and ask the question heavily laden with negative connotations -- what’s the hidden game plan?

Doubts on federalism

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III met with some members of the Consultative Commission (ConCom) on the government’s proposed change to federalism. He asked, “Who is going to pay for the national debt? Who is going to pay for the military? Who is going to pay for the [Department of Foreign Affairs] and the central bank? I mean if it needs additional capital, who is going to put it up?” (philstar.com Aug. 7, 2018). And the ConCom’s response was, “the sharing with the local governments or the states will be after those expenses” (Ibid.).

The legislative agenda for business

President Rodrigo Duterte at his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23 urged lawmakers to pass Package 2 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, while firmly saying no to proposals to reverse TRAIN Package 1 amid the high inflation rate recorded for the country this year (philstar.com July 26, 2018).

Inflation and the regions

President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) was so boringly bereft of his usual colorful language and blitzkrieg declarations, but not at all uneventful. In the hour-and-a-half waiting for the SONA, Filipinos were watching live, the daring coup on the House floor that ousted House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and instantly installed Gloria Arroyo as the new House Speaker by 184 votes and 12 abstentions (philstar.com July 23, 2018).

A leader’s responsibility with words

It was the first-ever formal one-on-one summit between a US President, Donald Trump, and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, held July 16 in Helsinki. At the joint news conference afterward, the final question from the US went to Jonathan Lemire from the AP (www.washingtonpost.com, July 16, 2018, transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government):

Is there an Imperial Manila?

Is there an Imperial Manila? It sounds traitorous to call Manila “Imperial,” as if Manila were not Filipino but a state apart, like the foreign imperial colonizers that Filipinos -- united as a people -- fought against to win independence and recognition as one country and one nation.

Not in the doldrums

How can President Rodrigo Duterte announce to his country and his people (and to world investors and creditors) that, “Now. The economy is in the doldrums. Actually -- now.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer [PDI] June 24, 2018) He then rants on his version of economic dynamics: “Interest rates are picking up, are getting high so it destroys the present (economic gains)...you raise your (interest rate), our (peso value) goes down, theoretically...” Mr. Duterte said at a speech at the SMX Center Communications Summit 2018 (Ibid.).

Blasphemy and persecution

“Bless me, Father for I have sinned. But I do not know if I have sinned, Father,” I whispered hoarsely, in the confessional.

Trust a key factor in business (and in everything else)

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world -- one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is trust.” -- Stephen M.R. Covey The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (2008).

The widow’s mite

“Where can I place my P100,000 funds?” What are the investment options for a risk-averse widow, in this time of rising inflation? “Since you do not trust equities or corporate bonds, and not even the managed pooled funds, perhaps the only easily withdrawable and guaranteed (insured) placement would be a time deposit in our bank,” the account officer sheepishly offered. “And how much interest will the bank pay me?” The account officer was definitely embarrassed to say, “0.88%, Ma’am, or P704 net of 20% final withholding tax, for 360 days.”

‘Kiss muna’ and the Altar of Secrets

“Kiss muna,” he said, pointing to his puckered lips. “Give me a kiss first” and the many similar sexual innuendoes like it, are a most precise and succinct precondition that a lecherous man in a position of ascendancy and superior power and influence would lay on a woman depending on some outcome beneficial to her, through his beneficence.

Conflict of interest in positions of trust

The Corporation Code of the Philippines, Section 32 concerns with the “Dealings of directors, trustees or officers with the corporation”.

All mine to give: property rights

Last week, Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio reiterated with even more indignant passion that the Philippine government should not give up rights in...