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Robbing the wrong way

Was it possible that some boys in the Palace wanted to ruin the media image of our leader Benigno Simeon, a.k.a. BS, by feeding him the wrong information on the alleged DAP-style juggling of funds by the Supreme Court?

The DAP of course is the “disbursement acceleration program” of the Aquino (Part II) administration, started in 2011, a year after our leader BS came into power, as an instant solution to the administration’s failure to pursue programs and projects in its annual budget approved by Congress.

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The Supreme Court already ruled that the DAP was unconstitutional, creating a ripple of protest and bad press against the administration, plus the filing of an impeachment case in Congress against our leader, BS.

As we all know, in reaction to the adverse ruling by the Supreme Court, which apparently rubbed our leader BS the wrong way, the administration went into the attack mode. Our leader BS himself came out on nationwide TV broadcast to criticize the Supreme Court frontally on that particular ruling.

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Some boys in the Palace also went full blast in claiming that the Aquino (Part II) administration spent wisely and honestly—i.e. free of graft and corruption—all the juggled funds in its yearly budget. No, sir, nothing was wrong with the DAP. Nobody in the administration and in Congress robbed the country though the DAP. Something like that.

To top it all, in a recent speech during the 150th birth anniversary of the hero Apolinario Mabini, an event well covered by media, he disclosed that the Supreme Court itself practiced DAP-style transfer of funds to cover the costs of the so-called Manila Hall of Justice, amounting to a hefty P1.8 billion.

Our leader BS claimed that the Supreme Court took the money from its “savings” to give it to the Department of Justice, apparently to augment the DOJ measly budget of P100 million for the 120-courtroom project in Manila.

In the same speech moreover, our leader BS even quoted an apparent “resolution” by the Supreme Court, saying that the resolution asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to transfer P100 million from the judiciary funds to the DOJ. It was just that the Supreme Court backtracked on its fund transfer request with the DBM when, several months later in 2013, the DAP issue hit the fan. Hmmm.

A check with our sources in the Supreme Court nevertheless showed that the resolution that our leader BS quoted, well, never even mentioned any transfer of a single centavo from its savings to the DOJ.

From what I gathered, the transfer never really happened. To begin with, the DOJ had no role in the project whatsoever. It was purely the project of the Supreme Court, which itself was set to bid out the detailed engineering and architectural design. The land title was still under the name of the Supreme Court. The construction was under the complete control and supervision of the Supreme Court.

In other words, the Supreme Court did not have any reason to move almost P2 billion from its savings to any department in the executive branch. Look, boss, during the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, the Supreme Court did not even invite anybody from the DOJ!

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There—the entire amount of P1.8 billion for the 150-courtroom Manila Hall of Justice stayed with the Supreme Court, although it realigned the money last year to an account called “capital outlay.”

There was no “cross-border” transfer of funds, something that some boys in the Palace apparently got from somebody else and immediately fed it to our leader BS, just like the Palace booboo that Nora Aunor was convicted in a case of possession of dangerous drugs.

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A number of business organizations reportedly asked the Aquino (Part II) administration to institute a “third-party” monitoring system for the “sin tax,” which was the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco products.

Reports said that the groups actually included the influential American Chamber of Commerce and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, plus their local counterparts the Federation of Philippine Industries and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries.

This section also reported that the groups pushed for the third-party monitoring to address the worsening problem of illicit trade in cigarettes, meaning, the manufacturers or importers of those cigarettes did not pay for the corresponding excise tax and VAT.

In other words, the groups were asking the Aquino (Part II) administration simply to put a stop to all the smuggling of imported cigarettes and the tax evasion done by certain local cigarette manufacturers.

The business groups actually gave the suggestion directly to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, since the Bureau of Internal Revenue—the BIR, itself—already blocked the proposal even without looking into its merits.

The groups noted that, based on a thorough study done by the UK-based Oxford Economics, together with the International Tax and Investment Center, the administration suffered a leakage in the cigarette “sin tax” and VAT collection of more than P15 billion last year.

In fact, Purisima himself ordered both the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the BIR to investigate a cigarette maker based in Bulacan called Mighty Corp. for alleged tax evasion, noting that the company claimed to have cornered more than 20 percent of the domestic cigarette market in less than a year with its suspiciously low-priced brands.

Anyway, it seemed that the BIR already shot down the proposal when its top officials claimed to media that the bureau already assigned additional personnel to monitor the sin tax payments of cigarette manufacturers.

Under the BIR system, bureau personnel had to be at the factory sites of the cigarette company 24/7, because the bureau had to determine the amount of excise tax as the hundreds of boxes—i.e. millions of cigarette sticks—left the factories for delivery to distributors and dealers.

Question: Could the BIR personnel really monitor physically each and every ex-factory releases of those billions of cigarette sticks every hour of the day—night and day?

And if the BIR, apparently to address the problem, already assigned additional personnel to check the shipment of all the cigarette manufacturers at their different factory sites, would it mean that the BIR moved personnel away from other important industries needing monitoring?

Now, the BOC already filed cases against Mighty for alleged smuggling. The BIR has yet to conclude its investigation on the alleged tax evasion of the same company that its boss in the DOF himself ordered. Well, if there was an investigation at all, to begin with!

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Business, disbursement acceleration program, economy, News, sin tax
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