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Aquino politicizes Yolanda rehab task

President Aquino is spitting on the graves of the thousands killed by super-typhoon Yolanda and laughing at the suffering of hundreds of thousands of those whose lives and homes were shattered by the calamity by appointing former Senator Panfilo Lacson as “rehab czar” for the disaster-stricken area.

How can Lacson’s appointment not be anything but a political accommodation?

For a president to pay a political debtis certainly understandable, even necessary because of realpolitik, for the sake of the country’s welfare.

But doing this to confront the gargantuan task of rebuilding Eastern Visayas, where 4 million Filipinos, the poorest in the country, face the bleakest of futures as their homes have been destroyed and their coconut-based economy ravaged?

Even before his last term as Senator ended June, Aquino announced that he would take in Lacson as a Cabinet member. This was obviously for his support in the past three years, especially in taking out Chief Justice Renato Lacson even without a pork barrel bribe.

But the posts Lacson wanted were already filled up. Because he’s been a policeman all his life, Lacson wanted to be anti-crime czar. But Aquino’s executive secretary Paquito Ochoa held that post, which is officially chairmanship of the Presidential Anti- Organized Crime Commission, and he wouldn’t of course give up the P500 million confidential (read: unaudited) funds of that shadowy agency.

An alternative was for Lacson was to be chairman of the National Police Commission, but the law says that entity must headed by the secretary of the interior and local government, who presently is Mar Roxas. Although Aquino reportedly is getting tired of Roxas’ boo-boos because of his 2016 campaign mode, the President has been told that if he goes, so will his protégé finance secretary Cesar Purisima, and consequently a big faction of his big-business support.

Lacson unqualified for job
Whoever would be in charge of rehabilitating Samar and Leyte would need the skills of a statesman, as the work involves getting local governments and several turf-jealous departments to work together; the experience of a veteran bureaucrat who can navigate the labyrinth of the bureaucracy and inspire its people to get things done; and the insights of an economist, since the task involves reconstructing the area’s economy.

A police officer for most of his working life, Lacson doesn’t have any of these qualifications, nor experience, and some would even question his expertise in handling an anti-crime organization, or any government organization for that matter.

The curse of a politician is his insatiable thirst to be in the newspapers, and Lacson is slowly fading in the public’s mind, as most ex-senators have. And he doesn’t even have a base in Cavite to become a congressman there. Lacson fantasizes that his being czar for Visayas’ reconstruction would put him back in the newspapers, enough to have name-recall to bid for the vice-presidency in 2016.

Lacson just two weeks ago reminded Aquino to keep his promise by vociferously criticizing Aquino’s “Disbursement Acceleration Plan” as “fiscal dictatorship” that is patently illegal. Aquino jumped up to appoint him rehab czar.

Ever Aquino’s “yes” man, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte is saying that Lacson be given a chance to prove his worth. But if he doesn’t, and when there were very clear reasons why he wasn’t up for the job, will we just say sorry to the millions of Warays who’ve been condemned to more years of suffering because of the bad choice of rehab czar?

The horrendous devastation by Yolanda certainly shouldn’t just be an employment opportunity for an unemployed ex-senator, to give him a chance to extend his political life.

But gratitude isn’t a quality Aquino is known for, and Lacson’s appointment may not really be entirely out of his gratitude for his support.

Note that Aquino obviously hates this Yolanda episode of this term. Piqued by the avalanche of criticisms on how he handled the crisis, he could really just be telling the people of Samar and Leyte, especially Tacloban mayor Albert Romualdez: “Panay reklamo niyo. Bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo. Ayan, magtiis kayo kay Ping. “

Or maybe we’re underestimating Aquino. After Lacson bungles the job, he can blame him, not his administration.

Henares: IRS is incompetent
We continue from Monday a discussion of Manny Pacquiao’s tax controversy.

Strip the issue of its technicalities, what Bureau of Internal Revenue chief Kim Henares is really saying in her claims that Manny Pacquiao is a tax cheat is that the US Internal Revenue Service is incompetent, or stupid in collecting the boxer’s right amount of taxes.

Consider the facts.

Henares’ complaint against national boxing hero Pacquiao involves the income by the boxer made in the US from his fights there and related earnings such as corporate endorsements and share in media coverage of the events. As is also the case here, it’s the company—Top Rank in Pacquiao’s case—which actually receives all of the revenues, computes the profits, and withholds the taxes due on the income of an employee or a contractual person (our champion in this case) and then remits these to the IRS.

Top Rank actually doesn’t have a choice here, or it’ll lose its business permit and be slapped criminal charges, as is also the case here. A 1976 treaty between the US and the Philippines recognizes—quite fairly—that a citizen of one country who’s been taxed in another country for his commercial activity there doesn’t have to pay taxes for the same earnings in his home country.

Now, Henares is claiming that for 2008, the IRS didn’t collect the correct amount of Pacquiao’s taxes in the US, while for 2009, the American tax collector wasn’t able to collect any taxes at all from the boxer, so that the BIR is now collecting those from the boxer. Henares in effect is saying that Top Rank fooled the IRS: “I don’t need the letter from Top Rank. I need the IRS certification, the originals not the copies, that Pacquiao paid his taxes there,” she claimed.

She was referring to official letters (and copies of documents) of Top Rank owner Bob Arum submitted by Pacquiao which reported that for each of his fights, the firm withheld 30 percent of Manny’s purses and paid those monies directly to the Internal Revenue Service via electronic funds transfer.

But Henares has been demanding the certification by the IRS itself that it received the taxes, which in effect means that she thinks Arum is a forger. And that the IRS was so stupid that it didn’t detect the forgery, or was so incompetent that despite the fact that Pacquiao’s fights have been front-page news in the US, it hasn’t bothered to check if this foreigner paid the right amount of his right taxes.

If Congress still has any remaining shred of integrity, it should pass a resolution asking Aquino to fire Henares for shaming a living national hero in the eyes of the world. It should even pass a law exempting Pacquiao for paying taxes for the rest of his life, in gratitude for making Filipinos proud of being a Filipino.

Tuwid-na-daan depravity
Henares’ attack on Pacquiao however isn’t surprising as it reflects the tuwid-na-daan depraved mentality of this administration: Find legal technicalities, and with the vast, discretionary powers of the President, use these against the regime’s enemies or defend the regime.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been kept in jail because of technicalities raised by government prosecutors by delaying the court proceedings. Justice Leila de Lima defied a Supreme Court order in 2011 allowing her to travel for medical treatment abroad, claiming that she had not received the Court’s directive. Aquino bribed senators to invoke the technicality that Chief Justice Renato Corona’s Statement of Assets and Liabilities did not include his dollar accounts.

Recently, Palace Spokesperson Herminio Coloma claimed media killings were “not serious” in the country by invoking the “technicality” that several of those included in murdered weren’t full-time journalists, but, in his words, “a driver of a network, employees of fly-by-night newspapers and a block timer selling skin whiteners”

Mar Roxas on the other hand resorted to his own bit technicality—a macabre one, I would think—to defend his boss insistence that the super typhoon’s casualties were low: To be counted as killed were only those who can be identified.