POSTSCRIPT /April 15, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Bangsamoro: Noy’s make-or-break fight

TAX TIME: Okay, BIR, I surrender. I used to fill out my Income Tax Return (Form 1701) in 30 minutes, skipping itemization and claiming standard 40 percent deductions to simplify the process.

But when I got the same Form 1701 yesterday I was surprised to see an entirely different one. I imagined the average filer would need a 130 IQ, or an accountant, or a seminar to be able to fill it out without BIR hounds chasing him later.

At the BIR main office in Quezon City, btw, a sign said yesterday they had run out of Form 1700, which salaried employees use. I had wanted to see if I may be able to use it (instead of Form 1701 for professionals and the self-employed) although I am technically not a salaried employee.

Goodbye to my 30-minute ITR-filing boast.

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NO KILL-JOY: When Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares talked about the tax deficiencies of newly resurrected WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, she sounded like warning him about his back taxes and spoiling the celebratory mood.

Only a few noted that Henares interviewed on radio was just answering questions of media looking for a good lead or angle for a Pacquiao-related story.

There is a big difference when an official makes on her own initiative a significant revelation and when she says something newsworthy only as she responds to questions thrown at her.

When quoting a speaker, the more careful newspaperman inserts the qualifier “in answer to a question” so as to put the statement in proper context. Note the difference if the speaker were reading from a prepared text.

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OUT OF CONTEXT: Henares reportedly said that with the $20-million purse that he grabbed after trouncing Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao “now faces a P2.56-billion tax deficiency” — implying that he now owes the Bureau of Internal Revenue a lot more in back taxes.

Whoever reported that missed the detail that taxes on the fresh millions that Pacquiao won last Sunday in Las Vegas are not due until April 15 of 2015. The boxer has ample time within which to pay the taxes still due next year.

What the BIR is actually chasing is only around P1.1 billion, representing alleged back taxes from 2008 to 2009 and interests piling up as the boxer delays settling deficiencies.

Since the dollars this time were earned in the United States, the federal Internal Revenue Service had the first crack at Pacquiao’s ring earnings. It has withheld the tax at source, estimated at 40 percent of the gross.

The Philippines will collect only the deficiency, or the difference between the tax rates of the two countries in case the US rate is lower than the Philippine tax rate.

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LEGACY: Malacañang’s timetable for the enactment the Bangsamoro Basic Law leading to the birth of a new federal-type state in the heart of Mindanao indicates a tight race for President Noynoy Aquino to leave it as his centerpiece legacy in 2016.

There is nothing on his agenda as monumental as the Bangsamoro, so its creation will be — like Pacquiao’s triumph over Bradley – the make-or-break last move of the Aquino administration.

It is “make-or-break”, because while the Bangsamoro could propel Mr. Aquino to Olympian heights in regional politics, it could also break his assiduously cultivated image as a peacemaker.

The Palace is talking of the first week of May for the Bangsamoro Basic Law to be submitted to the Congress so it would be ready for full play in the State of the Nation Address of the President in late July.

To cut legislative corners and keep to the schedule, the President will certify the bill as urgent. This would make it a party matter with all loyalists pitching in, even if they have to vote blindly at times.

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FULL-FLEDGED STATE: The certification is one of the things many observers worry about. The ensuing rush would deprive the nation and the lawmakers the time and thought that such an important legislation deserves.

This is one time when senators and congressmen should drop party loyalty if it interferes with their patriotic duty to see to it that the Constitution remains as the guiding light when dark forces move to dismember the Republic.

The feared emergence of a new parliamentary state in the very heart of Mindanao may not materialize immediately, but could happen down the road when the Bangsamoro is able to spread its wings and fly on its own as a full-fledged independent state.

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MAKE-OR-BREAK: Dismemberment could happen if President Aquino is able to navigate the shoals of a nationwide plebiscite (not only in the Moro area, since the issue gravely affects all Filipinos) and negotiate a majority vote of constitutionality in the Supreme Court.

The centrifugal force of such a development is likely to throw the Bangsamoro into the waiting arms of Malaysia, which has financed, fathered and inspired secession since the time of the pre-MILF destabilization campaigns in Muslim Mindanao.

If the Moro-state notion that Malaysia and a host of other foreign kibitzers had drummed into the head of Mr. Aquino as doable fails, or leads to more deprivation and violence in Mindanao, he would go down the drain of history with the tantalizing idea.

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ERRATUM: We apologize for erroneously attributing to Bishop José C. Sorra of Legazpi last Sunday’s well-received piece explaining why the pro-Life movement actually won in the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on the Reproductive Health Law (RA 10354).

Monsignor Sorra said the author was Atty. Jo Imbong, Executive Secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Legal Office and consultant of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on family and life. “I merely shared it (with her permission) with friends and respected writers, like you,” he said.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 15, 2014)

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