POSTSCRIPT / March 17, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Velarde must first pay taxes on his collections

FRIENDLY WARNING: US President Barack Obama had to talk to President Gloria Arroyo and remind her of the value of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement because the case of the US Marine convicted of raping a Filipina might get out of hand.

The public debate over the rape case is no longer whether or not the serviceman is guilty (an acquittal on appeal is widely expected) or whether or not the VFA is constitutional (the Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional).

Rather, the big issue is the possibility that enough public outrage and Senate votes might be marshaled, fueled by unfolding events, leading to the abrogation of the VFA after due notice.

Mr. Obama made sure he impressed upon Ms Arroyo that such abrogation would be disastrous for bilateral relations. In short, she should not let that happen if she knows what is good for her.

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ILLUSION: El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde finally admitted last week his lusting after the presidency. Since — like my barber — he has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications under the law, he is entitled to his presidential illusions.

Who knows, with Filipino voters unable to distinguish between elections and popularity contests, Brother Mike might just be carried to Malacañang by the multitudes that hang on to his tantalizing gospel of prosperity.

But before he files his candidacy papers, I suggest that he be required to disclose first how much in taxes he has paid all these years on the millions (now probably running into billions) that he has been collecting from his credulous followers.

If he cannot show that he has been paying the correct taxes on his collections, among other incomes, he should not insult us by presuming to run for the highest post in the land.

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NOT RELIGION: We should remember that El Shaddai is not a religion. It is not a “church.” It cannot be tax-exempt — even if the top officials of the land fall in line to touch the perfumed hand of Velarde and shower him with unusual privileges.

(The Arroyo administration may want to explain why Velarde was given a P500-million loan to build mansions when the money could have been used by the cash-strapped government for low-cost housing for the less privileged.)

El Shaddai and its general proprietor Velarde cannot seek shelter under the protective umbrella of the separation of the church and the state. All its/his collections and assets must be subject to the same taxes imposed on us ordinary mortals.

It might turn out that El Shaddai and/or Velarde have been paying the correct taxes. If so, let us have the audited figures before he delivers his next sermon and cart home the donations of desperate people hoping to be led by him to prosperity.

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GOSSIP MILL: It is horrible how the Arroyo administration is taking the lead in spreading chismis about supposed affidavits and threatened revelations on the Dacer-Corbito murders that are clearly calculated to smear political enemies.

If there were an applicable Right to Reply law, the newspapers would be swamped now with the reactions on the Front Page of all persons mentioned adversely or maligned in the smear campaign.

I say “smear” because there is no good reason why the government should be leaking out selected bits and pieces of a big picture whose entirety, plus its ramifications, may not even be fully disclosed later.

The people managing the leaks are not even worried that the supposed murder charges may not stick at all. As long as the targets are demonized to the hilt, that is success enough since the disclosures have been embellished and given currency in the media.

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QUIET LANG PO: Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez should stop dishing out opinion on the affidavit of former police senior superintendent Cesar Mancao who is expected to testify shortly after his extradition from the US.

As top state prosecutor, Gonzalez will be called upon to make an official ruling about Mancao, his affidavit and the individuals mentioned in it. If he is already making premature statements on them, how can Gonzalez be a credible arbiter?

His selective and partial disclosures are most unjust for a justice secretary to make, because his remarks carry legal and psychological weight, however dubious.

And since this Cabinet member is an alter ego of President Arroyo, it is as if the President herself shares and peddles the same opinions. She should tell him to shut up — or else release the Mancao affidavit in its entirety.

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MAKE UP YOUR MIND: At first, it was leaked that former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was tagged in the Mancao affidavit as the mastermind in the Dacer-Corbito murders and that Sen. Ping Lacson was just mentioned in passing.

But the idea of Erap being the mastermind did not take root. Many people (including me) believed that although he may have character flaws and interesting vices, murdering people who had crossed him was not one of them.

So the line was changed to say that Ping Lacson was the one identified by Mancao as mastermind. Unfortunately for Ping, and this is not fair to him, many people are disposed to believing that he is capable of such a violent act.

What are the bases for this demolition? Nothing, but the selective leaks from the Mancao files. Assuming those details are indeed in his affidavit, we all know that sworn statements are dime a dozen in this country.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 17, 2009)

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