Archive for May 11, 2009

Taxing books an old policy

GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc , The Philippine Star,  May 11, 2009

On blogs and Web forums educated Filipinos are expressing outrage with Customs’ “new” duties on books from abroad. Justifiably they’re worried about their favorite pastime. Booksellers reportedly have stopped importing books since March because of stiff tariffs. The story goes that a Customs examiner was under tremendous pressure to raise collections because of the agency’s P33-billion collection shortfall. He opened a crate of books and, seeing it to be a shipment of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight, insisted that duties be paid. The importer complied, but colleagues sought clarification from Finance Undersecretary Espele Sales. To their chagrin, Sales upheld Customs. As in The STAR report yesterday, she claimed that the operative law is Republic Act 8047, the Book Publishing Industry Development Act. Allegedly that law exempts from duties “only books about book publishing.” Customs and Sales point to the phrase that states: “tax- and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing.” Because there is no comma after “books” they conclude that the focus of the law is on “books used in book publishing.”

Given today’s bent for specialization and sub-specialization, one can imagine that there just might be a work or two about publishing tomes. Still, if Sales and Customs’ interpretation of the law is right, the question arises: why on earth would 24 senators and 235 congressmen pass a law to imbue special status on that one or two books alone? It simply sounds silly — as silly as the proposal of a general-turned-congressman to revive an archaic ban on communist thinking and literature. As inane as the Metro Manila chairman’s constriction of two center lanes on each side of 16-lane Commonwealth Avenue, purposely to slow down traffic on the country’s widest and so should be fastest-traffic road. As idiotic as a court ruling that once-inalienable forestlands can now become private communal property of would-be tribesmen.

In 1952 RP became a signatory of the 1950 Florence Agreement. The UN pact guarantees tax-free flow of educational, scientific and cultural materials. How come a law passed Congress four decades later flouting that international commitment?

Customs duties on imported books is not new in fact. As far back as 1995, the year a new law popped up to favor “books on book publishing,” I was victimized by Customs’ great book ransom. I had just joined a US-based book club then. One of the membership perks was a quarterly bargain sale. During one such sale, I purchased online a world atlas, 14 x 20 x 2 inches, for the equivalent of only P750; a guide to science experiments children can do at home, P250; and a collection of practical household remedies, P350. I paid the P1,350 total, plus shipping and handling fees, and eagerly awaited delivery. Two months later I received a notice to collect my parcel from the Post Office. To my dismay, Customs said I couldn’t take out the long-awaited books until I paid import duties of P3,800. They said the amount was based on their assessed value of the sophisticated titles. I pleaded that the Ramos admin then was promoting science and math, so the least they should do was ease up on tariffs on learning tools. Instead they showed me a section of the Tariffs and Customs Code to justify their unjust exaction.

* * *

NBI agents finally completed Thursday investigating Ted Failon’s wife’s suicide. They were set to draft the report over the weekend for submission to Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez today. Per original announcement, the release should have been last Friday. If there’s any further delay, it can only be due to the dirty designs of a police general. This general, reporting directly to a biggie in Malacañang, is beyond control of uniformed and civilian superiors. His meddling in the NBI probe has irked the agents, who worry for their careers and the agency’s image. So full of himself, he insists on making the suicide look like parricide by Ted because that was his initial announced theory. He believes that any contrary finding would make him lose face and mar his burning desire to become PNP chief. He’s doing all this at the expense of Ted, whose only fault is to hit hard at admin sleaze, abuse and ineptitude.

The general already erred in intruding on the initial investigations of his field men. (The overzealous Quezon City cops were taking orders from him, not from their chief, when they barged into the hospital ICU to paraffin-test the dying Trina, and arrested her brother and sister for disallowing it.) He is committing a bigger wrong by butting in a separate agency’s work. More so since it arises from a mistaken self-estimation that he is the center of media attention and so must prove his earlier broadcast theory. Colleagues say his lust for the top PNP post has blinded him from his sworn duty to uphold justice. Didn’t Oscar Wilde say that ambition is the last refuge of the failure?

* * *

E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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May 11, 2009 at 12:43 am Leave a comment

Huwag niyo baliin ang kaso ni Failon

SAPOL Ni Jarius Bondoc, Pilipino Star Ngayon, May 11, 2009

MASDAN si Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez. Pina-shut up niya ang NBI spokesman sa pag-media update ng developments sa suicide ng asawa ni Ted Failon hangga’t hindi daw tapos ang imbestigasyon. Tumanggi rin siyang mag-komentaryo sa pagbasura ng Quezon City fiscal sa kasong obstruction of justice laban kay Ted at mga kasambahay, dahil maaring bumagsak sa opisina niya ang usapin.

Tama sana ang mga pahayag ni Gonzalez. Pero kahina-hinala ang pakay niya kung ihambing sa ikinilos niya tatlong linggo lang nakaraan. ‘Yun ay nu’ng kapuputok pa lang ng balitang itinakbo ni Ted sa ospital si Trina na may self-inflicted gunshot wound sa sentido. Bigla na lang inanun-siyo ni Gonzalez na pina-hold departure niya si Ted sa hiling ng isang di-pinangalanang in-law. Ang implikasyon ay gumawa ng krimen si Ted at baka lisanin ang bansa. Sinundan pa niya ‘yun ng abisong dapat kuwestiyunin ang isang kaibigan ni Ted dahil tumulong umano sa kanya na buhatin ang duguang misis mula sa kama patungo sa banyo. Ang batayan niya sa impormasyon ay anonymous text message lang, pero isiniwalat niya ito obviously para siraan ang hard-hitting broadcaster.

Ngayon, ayon sa NBI spokesman, patungo ang imves­tigasyon sa konklusyon na suicide nga ang naganap. Tali­was ito sa nais palabasin ng isang pake-alamerong PNP general na alam ni Gonzalez ay malakas sa Malacañang. Kaya pinatahimik ni Gonzalez ang spokesman. Pagka­tapos, siya naman ang nag-ispekula tungkol sa imbes­tigasyon, Kesyo raw hindi nakapag-autopsy kay Trina ang NBI, kaya hindi makukumpleto ang imbestigasyon. Kesyo mapipilitan daw silang umasa sa autopsy report ng PNP. Kataka-taka itong manggaling sa isang opisyal na malimit ihirit ang “presumption of regularity of official acts,” kabilang ang kalupitan ng QC police sa ospital nang naghihi-ngalo si Trina. Tila pinalala­bas niya na hindi maaasa­han ang police autopsy report. Tila ang palalabasin na final NBI report ay hindi   conclusive na suicide nga ang naganap. Ito’y para sirain ang imahe ng broadcaster na matindi umupak sa kati­walian ng admin.

May 11, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment


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