POSTSCRIPT / October 3, 2010 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Excommunication highly improbable

YOUR SEX?: You have heard of the story of Miriam, Bong and Erap on a fam trip to a balmy Caribbean isle and, before the plane landed, being asked to fill out an immigration arrival card.

One item on the card asked the passenger’s Sex. Despite his being an expert on the subject, Erap was not quite sure how to answer. So he glanced to his left at Miriam, who wrote “F.” He looked to the right and saw Bong had written “M.”

Without much ado, since the card was not a sworn statement anyway, Erap wrote M-W-F & T-Th-S. (Sunday must be his rest day.)

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IRRELEVANCE: Biological urges, like sex – whether for recreation or procreation, whether for fun or fund – can hardly be legislated to everybody’s approval.

Whether there is a Reproductive Health law or not – an RH bill is pending in the Congress – warm-blooded people will continue to do or not do what they feel like doing or not doing.

The Catholic Church’s rigid position on sex has been with us for almost half a millennium, but most Catholics routinely ignore its admonitions on the subject.

If the Church wants to regress into irrelevance by insisting that its members rely solely on what it calls natural methods of preventing pregnancy, let it.

In the ensuing debate and battle for the public mind, Malacañang’s responsible parenthood line is likely to prevail over the Church’s chosen family planning method.

With our cafeteria style of serving couples all types of family planning methods, we do not need to pass an RH bill to tell them what to order.

What the government can do is have all options available – not by legislative fiat, but by the normal course of things. Modern Filipinos, wise as ever, will know what to do when given a choice.

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BIBLE-TOTING PUG: The gentleman from Sarangani surprised many of us the other day. In a break in his training for a major ring bout, Manny Pacquiao intoned when interviewed by the Star:

“As Catholic and God believer, I firmly believe that artificial birth control method is against the will of God.”

He followed up with a jab at rampant corruption in government which he said should be resolved to lessen hunger and poverty – the problems that the government said are the targets of the RH bill.

Keep on punching, Manny!

He said in Pilipino: “It’s in the Bible. One of God’s commandments is to go to the world and multiply, so we should not stray from it and instead focus on eradicating corruption. We should not blame the nation’s hardships onoverpopulation, because we have a budget.”

Having warmed up on the Bible, in the next-round interview, we just might hear our champ talking on excommunication.

* * *

NOT TRUE: Excommunication is a serious matter. When I saw the banner story saying President Aquino has been threatened by a bishop with excommunication, I dropped the paper.

My instincts as a newsman told me it had no banner value. Even without reading the story, I knew it could not have been true. No bishop, or a group of them, would say something like that.

One does not excommunicate the president of a generally Catholic country on the basis of mere press releases of his supposed utterances on the RH bill, birth control, et cetera.

It was not surprising that the next day, Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur (who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines), denied having threatened excommunication.

One newspaper (not the Star) refused to let go. Stressing the word “not,” the broadsheet insisted that its transcript showed that Odchimar said excommunication of the President was “NOT a proximate possibility.”

Precisely, that quote says that excommunication is not a proximate possibility, in effect saying that it is a distant possibility — that it is not likely to happen.

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BAY USE TAX: Is City Hall running low on funds? Why the move in the city council to extend its taxing powers to the waters of the bay?

Vice Mayor Isko Moreno proposes a so-called marine-water-usage tax on all cargo vessels docking at Manila’s ports at the rate of P5,000 for every day that a ship is docked.

Considering the number of ships that dock at Manila daily, collections could run into tens of millions a year.

We are not aware of any city in the world that collects taxes from shipping companies for using its sea, lake, bay or other body of water. Neither do we see any legal basis for the city council to enact such an ordinance.

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HOW TO DO IT?: All ports in the country are under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Ports Authority, which is vested the power to determine, impose, and collect port fees.

The Local Government Code does not delegate or extend such power to local governments.

How does Moreno intend to collect the fees? He passes on the task to port operators, requiring them to stop ships from leaving port unless they have paid the marine-water-usage tax.

That is an admission that the city government cannot do it — precisely because it has no authority over ports.

Only the National Internal Revenue Code allows the collection of certain taxes — VAT and withholding taxes, for instance — by private firms which then turn over collections to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

But a local government requiring private companies to collect taxes for it? That is a contentious legal situation.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 3, 2010)

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