POSTSCRIPT / February 14, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Free Valentine concert, hot goto, singing solons

FOR you lovers who adore life and music, and won’t mind sitting for a free concert, there is an ecumenical Valentine’s Day concert at 7 p.m. today at the Bahay ng Alumni on the UP Diliman campus. It will be all about love and life, and people.

What strikes me about the program are the singing solons giving solo interpretations of their favorite love songs. They are senators Nene Pimentel and Raul Roco, and congressmen Salacnib Baterina, Dodgie Osabel, Roan Libarios and Butch Abad. Nene will serenade his wife Bing with the undying Matudnila.

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes, the running priest who ministers to the Holy Sacrifice parish in Diliman, said that his Protestant counterpart Pastor Arnold R. Luna will sing my favorite Atin Cu Pung Singsing, while Fr. Joel Eslabra will contribute an Ilonggo song for Life.

The main choirs and bands, listed at random and not in descending order of virtuosity, are the: Church of the Risen Lord choir, UP Parish choir, Coro Concertino, Coro de Santa Cecilia, Miriam College Liturgical Choir, and the Helm Choral Society. The bands are the Avocado Funk Band and the YFC Band.

Complementing the musical food for the soul, pro-lifer Mentong Laurel, king of Goto King, will provide hot porridge as food for the tummy.

You can come as you are, but you’re encouraged to bring your spouse, your beloved, your friend and a rose.

“Instead of killing, we need healing as a people,” explained Fr. Reyes in the context of the raging debate on the death penalty. “Healing for the victims and healing for the offenders, and now healing for the countless converts of a crucifying mob.”

“This healing must begin with a reaffirmation of the sanctity of life,” he said. “This is the reason why we chose Valentine’s Day, to reaffirm our conviction and commitment to work and fight for life.”

* * *

THE Diliman concert calls to mind our own grand UPSCA choral concerts we used to hold every December at the UP Theater.

Looking back without blushing, it was not so much a choir as an oversized glee club. We numbered almost a hundred with almost 99 of us not able to read a note or carry a tune. But we always came out of the yearly concert intact and raring to inflict another concert on the crowd.

To save our reputation, and that of UPSCA, we would smuggle talents and soloists from the UP Conservatory. As we were stacked up on tiers rising on the stage, we had codigos pinned on the back of the guy/gal in front of us.

The conservatory also had enough UPSCA members who had the patience to teach and practice us musical illiterates. Months before the concert, they would group us into four voices (I was with bass simply because I could not be a tenor) and practice us separately with piano accompaniment.

Since we could not read notes, the pianist would simply play the melody chord by chord and we followed. It was a tedious process, especially because we were a noisy bunch, but over time we were able to sing whole songs! Many of the pieces were not really that difficult since we already knew the popular Broadway hits and the folk songs included in the repertoire.

Weeks later, the four voices would be gathered to sing together so we could learn how to merge the voices. It must have been nightmarish for the choirmasters, but it was fun for everybody.

Much later, the maestro himself, the late Prof. Antonio Molina, would come around and conduct us in our rehearsals at the Delaney Hall. We never noticed any irritation or fatigue on the professor’s benign face as he patiently guided us and smoothed out the very rough edges.

In the final days of rehearsals on stage, we had a full-blown symphony orchestra accompanying us and boosting our self-confidence.

* * *

THE fear of many of us was to sing off-key or out-of-turn in the opening blare of choir and orchestra. The nervous ones, meaning most of us, thought that we should not sing too loud or, better still, wait for the whole gang to start singing before latching on.

The choirmasters must have been mind readers also. By way of warning, they told us of a concert like ours where jittery choir members thought they better not sing the opening notes and just swing into it after the group gets going.

The story goes that when the conductor raised his baton to signal the start and brought it down, the orchestra promptly played—but there was a deafening silence from the choir!

Being a group that always prayed and trusted in the Lord, that catastrophe never happened to us. You should hear us belt out Handel’s “Hallelujah”!

* * *

IT was quite unusual, but there was not much publicity over the Estrada administration’s offer to individual and corporate income taxpayers immunity from audit if they paid 20 percent more tax this year than the previous year.

BIR Commissioner Beethoven Rualo said the immunity under the Economic Recovery Assistance Program (ERAP, of course!) does not cover previous tax years. Taxpayers who are liable for deficiencies and violations in prior years will have to await a more comprehensive amnesty scheme being worked out in Congress.

Such an enlightened approach to tax collection brings in revenue more than harassment and oppressive policies can – especially when people see their taxes being misused or stolen by the millions.

* * *

WE remember how then Manila Mayor Mel Lopez adopted a similar tack to raise money for cash-strapped City Hall.

First, he held dialogues with the business community, especially Chinatown that had about 15 sectors under its protective wings including those on cereals, sugar, finance, hardware, etc., the smallest sector being upholstery. Lopez offered immunity from inspections and harassment if they paid 20 percent more in local taxes.

They agreed, and for more than two years, Lopez grounded license inspectors to keep his end of the bargain. City Hall was able to increase by 106 percent its collection of local fees and taxes.

This bonanza enabled Lopez to balance the budget, effect savings and improve services. Retiring city personnel got their retirement benefits, some of them running into millions, on their last working day.

Lopez was able to build two hospitals, three sports complexes, 500 additional classrooms, and to add a college of law and five other colleges to the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, among other facilities.

He was able to wipe out the P700-million indebtedness that he had inherited. By the time he stepped down, Lopez had more than P1 billion in savings with the Philippine National Bank and the Land Bank which his successor Mayor Fred Lim was able to use to launch his own programs.

* * *

ANOTHER step that President Estrada can ask Ruallo to take is to speed up the refund of excess income taxes withheld from source. Seldom will you hear of small taxpayers getting refunds.

The tax amnesty bill being crafted in the House of Representatives must have a provision setting a strict deadline for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to refund excess withholding taxes. Beyond this deadline, the BIR must pay interest, because it is oppressively keeping money that belongs to the taxpayer.

Another option that should be left open by the amnesty scheme is for a taxpayer to be allowed to apply his unrefunded excess taxes (plus interest) to his income tax due for the current year.

It should be enough that he attaches to his new income tax returns a copy of his last year’s ITR showing that he was entitled to a refund. The old ITR must be prima facie proof that he is entitled to a refund and this must be accepted by the collecting office or the bank accepting payments.

This could be another proof that the Estrada administration is for the mahihirap, who are almost half of the population.

* * *

ONE is dismayed to see how easily the House of Representatives sways with the prevailing winds of public opinion or what passes for it in media.

Congress, remember, restored the death penalty under a law that saw the throwing into Death Row of almost a thousand convicts. The first to be executed, last Feb. 5, was rapist Leo Echegaray.

But when some media sectors drummed up opposition to the death penalty together with pro-life organizations, the noise was interpreted as public opinion.

This enabled a Parañaque congressman to gather enough signatures from his colleagues to prompt the Supreme Court to lift its temporary order postponing the Echegaray execution. Many of the congressmen who signed up were previously for the death penalty, but they changed their mind under the pressure of perceived public opinion.

Now the same House is agog over moves gaining ground in the legislature to review death convictions.

When will our congressmen stop swinging mindlessly back and forth like a pendulum?

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 14, 1999)

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