OPINION: 'Do not cut our taxes!' Only in the USA

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Nov 17 2017 09:42 PM

“We are high net worth individuals, many in the top 1%, who care deeply about our nation and its people, and we write with a simple request. Do not cut our taxes.”

Some 400-plus millionaires and billionaires, headed by the likes of George Soros and Steven Rockefeller, thus wrote the US Congress this week. They were emphatic in their declaration that “the key to creating more good jobs and a strong economy is not tax breaks for those of us who have plenty but in investing in the American people.”

Do you think we can ever hear something similar from the folks in Forbes Park and the Makati Business Club crowd? There appears no reason why the Filipino should collectively hold its breath!

There is an American group that is known as “Responsible Wealth.” It is a network of business leaders, investors, and inheritors in the richest 5% of wealth and/or income in the U.S. who believe that growing inequality is not in their best interest, nor in the best interest of society. 

Is that not what we in the hoi polloi of the Philippines hanker for? 

ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES? 

I thought I would bring this matter up because recently we had two local tax cases involving Filipinos of prominence whose liabilities with the Bureau of Internal Revenue were judicially written off. In other words, the government lost both cases which the government itself filed.

A couple of weeks ago, the tax-evasion case against Ms. Carla Corona Castillo (daughter of the late impeached SC Chief Justice Corona) was dismissed by the Court of Tax Appeals. 

Another celebrated tax case is the Ph2.9-billion assessment against former President Joseph Estrada. That too was dismissed. 

It is inevitable that we ask—are our government lawyers so incompetent that what otherwise would have been open-and-shut cases, they still manage to lose? Or are these cases deliberately programmed to be lost even before they are filed? Is it fair to even ask these questions? 

Unfortunately, the Philippine judicial system, still severely damaged as it is and being what it is, makes the righteous and discerning in society reasonably skeptical and untrusting.

Let us recall that news about these cases when they were filed indicated the strength of the government’s position, especially because the cases were direct offshoots from the very criminal sequence of events for which the principals were convicted. 

What may have been thought of as a slum dunk of a tax case when filed, after some legal hibernation, turns out to be duds. Of course, to the giddy satisfaction of the respondents. But what about the attorneys on both sides?

This brings to mind that when ex-President Estrada was convicted of plunder in 2007, the court decision also included the State’s forfeiture of Estrada’s accounts. These included the P545 million (from the Erap Muslim Foundation) and the P189 million of his fictitious ‘Velarde’ account. Who has forgotten that but for the pardon given by Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Estrada faced life imprisonment?

Here is a journalistic challenge. Has there been any report attesting to the full compliance of this court-ordered forfeiture? For that matter, what about the forfeiture of ill-gotten assets of Janet Napoles, Sen. Revilla, and the younger Estrada?

I wonder what surprises await the Filipino body politic should news organizations devote ample time to discovering and unearthing “sleepers” like neglected or settled-behind-closed-doors forfeitures and tax cases?

Even foul odor from hidden rot can dissipate over time and be forgotten. That is when crime really pays!

LEGITIMATE JOURNALISM?

Having served as Press Secretary in the Office of the President under a previous administration, I have consciously refrained from critical commentary on the manner by which business is being conducted today by the incumbent Presidential Communications Office. It was also such professional demeanor observed with past administrations. 

As public servants attending to common communications objectives of government, we are bound by professional ethics. Basically, that is to lay off what is no longer one’s dutiful concern. Tenure over!

However, recent events involving public behavior of questionable characters in the public payroll have given rise to an occasion for justified scolding. I speak of the public behavior of characters such as Mocha, Sasot, Nieto, etc., whose unsavory antics the public is now fairly familiar with. Their participation in and partaking of the public discourse is an irritating distraction, a display of ill-manneredness and a blatant affront to the profession of journalism. 

And by the silence of their seniors and the lack of disciplinary exaction, such behavior seem to be encouraged and rewarded— truly the raison d'être for such individuals being hired, and rewarded for past similar “services,” in the first place. That certainly reflects poor ethical judgment on the part of management.

Presidential media relations are hardly ever silken smooth and oftentimes, very rarely non-confrontational. Such is the nature of chasing the newsworthy and reporting it. The profession of journalism is dedicated to and in the service of the truth. That is primordial, in fact. 

On the other hand, government either hides or promotes the truth, depending on its moral exigencies. These are the givens. Nonetheless, while there are operational pitfalls, like in any other profession, these can be avoided and are never insurmountable. Observance of tenets will always be a secure foundation.

Here is a handy brief as an aid to our appreciation of our daily consumption of reported events. The tenets of Journalism are: 
1) Truth and Accuracy; 2) Independence; 3) Fairness and Impartiality; 4) Humanity; and 5) Accountability. 

By these, we judge qualitatively the purveyors of news.

The advent of ‘social media’ in the conduct of official public information dissemination is of recent utilization. The Duterte administration, having been borne and bred by the electoral campaign’s expert amoral social media manipulation, appears already addicted and over reliant upon its practice. 

Naturally, as an untested administrative tool, its uncontrolled use has been met by bugs and bumps along the way. Professionally, social media as practiced by Malacanang can use calibrated refinement if only to regain respect. That is by simply adhering to the demands of truth and accountability. 

Social media is a legitimate communications tool. But it ought never become a weapon of hoodwinking the people! And, as a well-on-its-way distinct possibility, waylay democracy! That is the level at which one can honestly assess Malacanang’s media values today.

The tolerated and encouraged current use of social media by Malacanang through its infamous surrogates, therefore, can only mean that the Office of the President condones and is complicit in discrediting and denigrating true and real journalism.

Is there room for improvement? Let us hope and see if the Press Office has not yet become incorrigible. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.