POSTSCRIPT / November 9, 2003 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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We admire Villaruel, not his violent means

SUNDAY SHARING: If you have fast Internet connection, we strongly urge you to visit these two sites: www.theinterviewwithgod.com/popup3.html and www.pathways-to-peace.com. Excellent Sunday fare for the family!

After experiencing these sites, with sound for maximum enjoyment, you may want to tell your friends about them. We ourselves learned of these sites from cabalen Dr. Mike T. Galang of 17890 Wexford Ct., Brookfield, Wis. Thank you.

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VILLARUEL SACRIFICE: We admire and salute Col. Panfilo Villaruel Jr., the 60-year-old retired air force officer and one-time chief of the Air Transportation Office who was gunned down during his pre-dawn takeover of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport control tower yesterday.

His companion LtSG Ricardo Garcillar was also killed when the police assaulted their position in the tower.

It would not be a bad idea to name the NAIA control tower after Villaruel. After all, he was the one who built it when he was ATO head with rank of assistant secretary. In fact, there is a commemorative tablet on the tower saying so.

Villaruel gave his life to call attention to problems dragging down the country but which officials continue to ignore. Reminds us of the Vietnamese monks who burned themselves in the 1960s to call attention to the corruption of the Ngo Ding Diem regime.

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VIOLENT MEANS: Having said that, we cannot help noting, however, that the end does not justify the means — more so if violence is employed to achieve a peaceful end.

Villaruel and his companion forcibly took over a strategic public installation whose unhampered operation is crucial to ensuring safe and efficient air traffic.

In effect, they held the nation hostage. If the takeover dragged on till the arrival of the earlier flights of the day, there could have been confusion, if not disaster, with the Philippines again crashing into the news reports of the world press.

It was essential that there be a speedy solution, using force against force if necessary, before the problem deteriorated and resulted in loss of lives, destruction of property, and the damage to the reputation of the Philippines as regards its stability.

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PIECE OF REALITY: The police team sent to neutralize the duo performed their job well, done with dispatch according to established standard operating procedure and at great risk to their lives.

The cries of surrender from the tower came too late as by that time everybody was already caught in the confusion of the assault.

Villaruel did the bidding of his conviction, for which we respect him. And the lawmen did their ordained job, for which we commend them. Whether or not the police used excessive force is debatable.

It was not a bad dream that we can forget in the morning. It was a throbbing piece of reality, etched with gunfire and the moaning of dying men, that will keep haunting us, including President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

However the episode is officially recorded, Villaruel’s supreme sacrifice should not be in vain.

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EXODUS: Many Filipinos who cannot stand seeing the country go to pieces and their future grow dimmer by the day have chosen to just leave for foreign shores instead of waiting for a miracle.

Reader Violie S. Venturanza reports, for example: “A brother-in-law who’s a senior partner in a law firm together with his nurse wife will be leaving for the US early next year. Another lawyer brother-in-law who’s a Senior Vice President in one of the major banks will be migrating soon to join his accountant wife and children in Canada. Another sister-in-law who is a dentist is studying, again, to become a nurse and later to migrate to the US or Canada. All my sisters have migrated to Canada in 1994-95.

“My husband and I still choose to stay despite the very frustrating things that have been happening since Erap’s time: the 1997 crisis, Iraq war, SARS, the Magdalo mutiny and now the Davide impeachment. Our very greedy, power-hungry politicians who only think of themselves are the biggest contributor to our economic mess.”

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HIGHER CIGARET TAX: Workers of La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Co. recently trooped to the Finance department to urge Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho to scrap Revenue Regulation 22-2003 slapping higher taxes on 11 new cigarette brands, including La Suerte’s best-selling Astro and Memphis.

The group painted a doomsday scenario: thousands of factory and farm jobs lost and less tax collections if their company shuts down once the higher levy is imposed. It could have been a poignant picture — laborers fighting for the right to livelihood — if it were premised on legally and ethically-defensible grounds.

The government has been running after La Suerte for billions of pesos in taxes it should have paid for new brands introduced after a Congress-imposed cut-off in 1996.

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TAX ADJUSTMENT: Case records show that since it introduced Astro and Memphis only in 1999, those brands do not fall under any category in the existing excise tax law that took effect in 1997.

Nonetheless, Congress — anticipating the entry of new brands — provided that manufacturers introducing new products could declare first their suggested retail price for taxation purposes. The law mandated that regular price surveys shall be done later to determine the actual retail price of the new brands upon which to base the applicable tax.

Following this procedure, La Suerte introduced Astro and Memphis in 1999 with a “suggested” retail price below P5, for which it has been paying an excise tax of P1.12 per pack of 20s.

Four years later, government realized it was not capturing additional revenue from these brands because of its failure to conduct the price survey required for tax reclassification.

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COSTLY OVERSIGHT: In March 2003, a BIR survey (that La Suerte tried but failed to stop) showed that Astro and Memphis were actually selling at nearly P8 per pack, thus making it liable for P5.60 (or a difference of P4.48) in excise taxes per pack.

The government stood to lose P1.6-billion from the two brands if it did not impose the higher tax rate, given that the firm’s 2002 production volume was already approaching 360 million packs.

While mindful of the estimated P3-billion in back taxes that La Suerte could be held liable for the years 1999 to 2002, government is finally correcting its costly oversight. With a ballooning fiscal deficit, it has no other option than to raise revenues through new taxes and more efficient collection.

By reclassifying Astro and Memphis to a higher tax bracket, Camacho and BIR Commissioner Guillermo Parayno are simply doing their job.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 9, 2003)

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