POSTSCRIPT / November 13, 1997 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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God endorsed Nene, Habito? ‘I never did!’ protests Tatad

UNKNOWN to most taxpayers, there are actually three houses of Congress: the Senate, the House of Representatives and the bicameral committee. We reporters covering the pre-martial law Congress used to call the third chamber the conference committee. Now they often refer to it as the “bicam.”

Considering what it does, the bicam sometimes operates like a super mini-Congress. When the separate Senate and House versions of a bill have conflicting provisions, a bicam meets to resolve the differences so the two measures need not be sent back separately to the two chambers for further debate and rewriting. The bicam performs a bypass operation.

It’s a sound idea. But in practice, the committee sometimes goes beyond resolving conflicts and proceeds to insert substantial provisions not approved by either chamber – thereby virtually operating like another legislature.

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THIS anomaly sparked last Nov. 10 a debate between Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (chairman of the Senate panel in the bicam) and Sen. Sergio Osmeña III who questioned Enrile’s unilaterally inserting big tax breaks for the rich not approved by the Senate while being stingy with tax deductions for low-income taxpayers.

Osmeña said Enrile’s tax breaks for the rich – such as reduction of corporate tax to 30 percent, of capital gains tax on unlisted shares to 10 percent, of estate tax to 20 percent, and of donor’s tax to 15 percent – will amount to a whopping P13.5 billion in revenue losses for a government that is scrounging around for money.

There was insinuation in the press that Enrile slashed the tax on capital gains to benefit his own unlisted companies, which are among the biggest in the country. Of course, the senator denied this, adding that if his colleagues felt he did anything wrong, he was willing to face the Senate ethics committee. It won’t come to that, we’re sure.

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YOU guys in the States may not have seen the film “Eskapo” but will still remember Serge Osmeña, who escaped in September 1977 from a Marcos maximum security prison with Geny Lopez and flew to the safety of America.

Listen to him, now a freshman senator, lamenting that the Enrile insertions favor the 2,000 or so wealthiest families of Philippines 2000:

  • The rich can afford to spend $50,000 per year to send their children and grandchildren to exclusive schools in America and Europe, while some 6 million lower-income families are denied the measly P2,500 deduction proposed as education allowance.
  • The rich can send family members for heart bypass surgery in Stanford University, which costs roughly P6 million, yet the Senate, removed the P2,500 deduction for medical expenses.
  • Billionaire families will enjoy tax breaks amounting to some P50 million per family, while some 6 million low-income families are denied a measly P5,000 a year.

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IF you have heard this one, read on anyway.

Three officials who claimed to have received mandates from God Himself to run for president were invited to a TV talk show to share with viewers how they got their marching orders.

Former Senator Nene Pimentel said he had a dream wherein God told him “Nene, you have to save the country. You run….”

NEDA Director General Cielito Habito, for his part, said that he was startled when one night while praying with his wife he heard God’s voice, “Ciel, you must run. The country needs you.”

Whereupon, Senator Francisco Tatad, the third man in the panel, butted in: “That can’t be. I never told these two gentlemen to run!”

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IF you think poor God must be confused over the conflicting claims of divine endorsement on this patch of the earth, listen to these other stories of anointment:

  • Speaker Jose de Venecia will be anointed by Yahweh ‑ because he is endorsed by El Shaddai.
  • Former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa will be anointed by Allah – kasi Batangueño, ala eh!
  • Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani will be anointed by the Father – because Brother will not anoint her.
  • Senator Edgardo Angara will be anointed by the Holy One ‑ huli na, naiiwan pa!
  • Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. will be anointed by the Son of God ‑ he is the son of Guy.
  • PCSO Chairman Manuel Morato will be anointed by Messiah ‑ Siyempre, may saya.
  • Vice President Joseph Estrada will be anointed by the Maker ‑ may kerida.
  • Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim will be anointed by the Holy Salvation ‑ ang mahuli, salvage ‘yon.
  • Former Gov. Lito Osmeña will be anointed by Providence—Prom de Probins.

The much quoted statement of President Ramos that he would not seek a second term “period, period, period” has also spawned a number of jokes involving other personalities.

  • After the FVR statement, Vice President Joseph Estrada reportedly said: “Hindi ako mahilig, kama (comma), kama, kama.”
  • Then there is the quote attributed to Morato: “Hindi ako bakla, cologne (colon), cologne, cologne.”
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