POSTSCRIPT / March 27, 2003 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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New car tax scheme is biased for the rich

AUV PRICES TO RISE: We join Sen. Tessie Aquino Oreta in assailing as heavily biased for the rich the new tax plan of the Bureau of Internal Revenue on luxury cars and Asian Utility Vehicles.

Under the tax plan, luxury vehicles would enjoy up to 50 percent in price reductions while the popular AUVs would suffer price markups of 3 to 5 percent. The new rates take effect next month as part of the cash-strapped government’s campaign to raise money.

Oreta noted that AUVs, which now account for 40 percent of vehicle sales in the country, will be priced beyond the reach of the middle class. She said this would harm the automotive industry, parts traders, and workers in related industries.

Under the BIR scheme, the Toyota Revo, now priced at P850,000, will cost P899,853, representing a 6-percent markup. A Mitsubishi Adventure van will cost P698,603, from P675,000, or a 3-percent increase, while an Isuzu Crosswind will cost P921,703 from its previous price of P869,000, or a 6-percent increase.

The Toyota Hi-Ace, which costs about P827,000, will soon cost P873,403 under the new excise tax scheme, while the Mitsubishi L300 will cost from P835,000 to P882,603.

On the other hand, high-end Sports Utility Vehicles, such as the Toyota Prado, will cost from P2,750,000 to P2.032,353 under the new tax scheme, or a price decrease of 26 percent. The price of the Toyota Land Cruiser would fall from P5 million to P3,044,188 or a 39-percent markdown, while the Ford Escape will be priced from P1,110,000 to P880,196, representing a 21-percent price decrease.

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INEFFECTUAL PROTEST: A state does not have to build a case against a foreign diplomat accredited to it before expelling him. All that needs to be done is for the host government to declare him persona non grata and order him to leave. No explanation is needed.

If the presumably erring diplomat had violated any law, he is still allowed to leave without his having to face any criminal proceeding. He enjoys immunity.

The call of Senate President Franklin Drilon, a lawyer, for the foreign office to show cause for its expulsion of some Iraqi diplomats is best ignored. It is an ineffectual protest.

But we think it is proper to ask Foreign Secretary Blas F. Ople to explain reports in informed circles that the Iraqi diplomats were expelled upon pressure or insistence of the US embassy.

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GMA RESISTS PRESSURE: The Americans have accused the Iraqis of spying. An act cited was one Iraqi’s allegedly taking pictures of the US war memorial near Forbes Park in Makati.

This is a silly accusation since the cemetery, a tourist spot of sorts, has no military or strategic significance. We ourselves have taken pictures freely in that beautiful park without the security guards telling us not to.

We’re glad President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so far, has withstood US pressure to order the closure of the Iraqi embassy here.

In the context of current belligerence, such closure would amount to a severance of diplomatic relations presumably on account of the war. More so, if there is a corresponding closure of the Philippine embassy in Baghdad.

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RP NOT AT WAR: Whatever our American friends say, it is ill-advised at this point for us to cut relations with Iraq. We have to keep our lines open to that part of the Middle East, where more than a million Filipinos eke out a living.

We do not buy the argument that having aligned ourselves with the US, or having been lumped with the “coalition of the willing” supporters of the US, we are ourselves in a state of war.

Even the US, we keep saying in this space, is in the legal sense not at war with Iraq despite its having invaded that country. The US Congress has not issued a formal declaration of war as provided in their Constitution.

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IRAQI TV HIT: In Baghdad, if the US purposely hit Iraqi TV to disable it, this can only mean that the Americans know they have been losing on the propaganda front of the war.

It’s much like somebody losing in a debate suddenly wresting away the microphone of his opponent in a bid to silence him.

Is muzzling Iraqi TV fair? It does not speak well of mighty America, this supposed bastion of free speech, but in war where the ultimate objective is victory, fairness seldom figures as a major consideration.

We’re worried about the possible reaction. We’re sure they know it’s bad PR to harm the press, but what if the boys of Saddam Hussein go berserk and chase foreign news teams perceived to be unfair to Iraq? What if they go after news correspondents “in bed” with US and British military units?

They were not purposely targeted by either side, but several journalists covering the US-Iraq war have been killed on coverage. These non-combatants have become part of statistics on collateral damage.

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WHOLESALE BRIBERY: With prisoners of war being taken from both sides and whole communities being displaced by the fighting, we would like to see an expanded and accelerated involvement of the International Red Cross.

The Red Cross is already on the scene, doing what it can under dangerous and difficult circumstances. But it needs more workers, more funds and lots of elbow room to make its presence felt.

We’re not comfortable being told about tons upon tons of American relief being shipped via the Gulf as “humanitarian aid.” The goods should be stripped of their identification as to source and turned over to the Red Cross for distribution.

There is something anomalous about the US bombing communities and then coming in with so-called humanitarian aid. This is hypocrisy. It is duplicity.

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OPPOSITION ASTIR: We don’t know the Iraqi people well enough to be able to tell how they feel about the US raining bombs and bullets on them, then dumping food packages and “humanitarian aid.”

What do Iraqis think of the claim of President George W. Bush that the US is invading Iraq to liberate its people? What do they think of his dream of making Iraq a model of a democratic nation for the Middle East?

It seems the floor directors of the Liberation movie running in Bush’s mind are asleep. Until now we have not seen delirious Iraqis spilling into the streets to welcome their liberators.

What we’ve seen on TV is the stirring of the local enemies of Saddam. They have started to jockey for positions in the expected post-Saddam regime being sponsored by the US.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 27, 2003)

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