Category: Social Issues

Book Blockade of 2009 is still in effect

book burning

Book burning by Nazis in 1933

Check this message published by PDI last Friday:

On May 29 one reader of my blog, Dondi Imperial, was assessed customs fees for three books he ordered from abroad. In early June he was told to apply for a customs exemption if he didn’t want to pay the assessed taxes. Things dragged on in the following manner:

“My dad volunteered to go to the DOF to apply for the exemption. The first time he went, they said to come back another day because the person who signs these documents was not there. When he told me of this, I told him that maybe it was better for me to just pay whatever the customs official was charging me but he refused and went back another time. They made him wait for over half a day and on top of that charged him P200 for what the receipt says is ‘FF’ (who knows what that is?). He had to photocopy a few documents and asked where the machine was. The person he asked had someone take him to the photocopier and said, ‘Ikaw na bahala sa kanya.’ The photocopier was about 20 feet away.

“In the end with the certificates from the DOF in hand the post office still charged a total of P515: BIR taxes-P15; Proceeds-Auction Sale (the letters IPF are written beside this line)-P250; Miscellaneous (the letters CDS are written beside this line)- P250

“So P500 + P200 + over a day and a half of my dad’s time + the cost of gasoline for two drives both ways from Parañaque to the DOF.”

And a comment posted by a friend who sent books to her husband from Ireland:

Nabiktima na din ako/Paul neto e (my book but Paul had to claim it). He refused to pay the tax and told the post office na they can keep the book na lang. Hiningan na lang sya ng whatever na mabibigay nyang pera. (The people at the post office asked him for whatever amount he could give [just so they could dispose the book].)

When I dropped by the Makati Post Office to claim a parcel the other day, a guy next to me who was picking up three books was asked to cough up P1,200. He said he thought that there was no taxation on books anymore, but the man in charge of disposing parcels told him the order from Malacanang to stop taxation on books had been lifted and gave him a copy of the new order, where Arroyo yet again reneged on her word, passed in June. A long discussion over the phone ensued because it turned out that the guy was only picking up the books for someone else.

Based on these examples and my experiences, here are a number of tips:

  1. Haggle. Just because the people at the counter told you to pay thousands of pesos on personal items that family members or friends from abroad sent you doesn’t mean that you have to cough up the same amount. Ninety percent of the time, the post office people give you “guesstimates” of the values of your parcel, so why line their pockets? Tell them you don’t have the money (because most likely, you really don’t). Tell them the items in the parcel are not new.
  2. Threaten. Tell them they could shove the books up their sorry a–es. They are not interested in books, and keeping the tomes in the warehouse is a lot of hassle for these people, so chances are they will ask you to pay whatever amount you are willing to give just so they could dispose those worthless things that take a lot of space.
  3. Look humble. There is an advantage in dropping by the PO looking like you traveled all the way from the far corners of Metro Manila on foot. I managed to look harassed the other day. The man on the counter gave just one glance and immediately disposed my parcel after asking for a measly 35-peso handling fee for the stuff that cost P3,000+. Read: No effing taxes. On the other hand, the guy beside me looked like he had just stepped out of a spa. Sure, looks matters, but in this example, there is a bonus for looking like you had camped out for days to get a spot in the audience section of a Wowowee anniversary show. A fashionista friend picked up a pair of lingerie worth P1,600 one time and she was asked to pay up P800. No receipt was given.
  4. Capture. If the person on the counter tells you to pay suspiciously too much and/or unnecessary dues on your parcels, especially books, tell them to smile for the camera phone because if it turns out that they are lying, their faces will be all over the blogs, social networks, and Twitpics.

But the real issue is: The smarty pants among us have to pay taxes on books because the Department of Finance is scrounging for extra cash, while some twat in the palace makes toma in New York on $500-per-bottle wines. Amp!

Seat-All-You-Can

Malacañang cancelled the order for a P1.2-billion “presidential jet” that would have alleviated worries that riding in a civilian airplane “poses high-security risk that may jeopardize life and limb of the President.” As if that wasn’t exactly what Filipinos wanted Macapagal-Arroyo to do.

Here’s a nice tip to Malacanang, courtesy of Philippine Airlines.

This is a slap in the face of local carriers that have enormously helped local and regional tourism prosper by providing affordable rates so Filipinos could travel to various destinations in the country and Southeast Asia. What does Arroyo think makes her different from the rest of us? Oh yes–a $20,000 feast for a “working visit” to the US. Using tax payers’ money. Maybe Lucio Tan and the Gokongweis should not make any contributions to the campaign funds of Arroyo or her party. Hindi daw safe ang eroplano ninyo.

Source: Jet purchase too ambitious for leader of a poor nation (PDI)

UPDATE:

I have just found the best airplane for La Presidentita:


Arroyo and friends’ dinner in NYC cost $20,000

From today’s New York Post. So is this where Filipinos’ taxes go when Gloria goes on an R&R in the Big Apple? By god, that goblin is shameless.

THE economic downturn hasn’t persuaded everyone to pinch pennies. Philippines President Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at Le Cirque the other night with a large entourage enjoying the good life, even though the former comptroller of her country’s armed services, Carlos Garcia, was found guilty earlier this year of perjury and two of his sons were arrested in the US on bulk cash-smuggling charges. Macapagal-Arroyo ordered several bottles of very expensive wine, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000.

UPDATE: Inquirer picked up the story:

“The purported menu included caviar; such appetizers as lobster salad, wild burgundy escargot and soft shell crab tempura; main courses of black cod, halibut, Dover sole, saddle of lamb and prime dry-aged strip steak; and Krug champagne at $510 a bottle.” More on Inquirer.net.

Arroyo’s people at Malacanang explained that the bill was footed by Congressman Martin Romualdez from Leyte, who unfortunately could not be reached for comments because he was busy. Ipabayad daw ba sa bayan ang paglamon at pag-toma sa New York.

Last Suffer Number Three

Doji, Joy, and I watched Last Supper No. 3 at the CCP last night. It was the only other film that I was really looking forward to, and was my first choice for viewing as early as last week, if only I was able to reserve tickets. As luck would have it, of course, we ended up with Dinig Sana Kita.

Last Supper‘s premise resembles that of what Bob Sutton, author of the popular book The No Asshole Rule, would probably describe as “a snake pit teeming with assholes,” and it effectively shows the dizzyingly, despicably corrupt Philippine justice system. If you have followed how landmark cases, such as the Bernard Madoff affair, get resolved in a matter of months, then you would despair at the sluggish pace that an estafa case around an advert prop worth less than $500 stretched to over two years and cost the defendant nearly double the amount because of lawyer appearance fees, bribes, and lost productive hours.

Wilson, an advertising production designer, is tasked to look for a Last Supper as a prop for a corned beef commercial that targets the C-market. Three Last Suppers fall on the shortlist, but only one is chosen. During shooting, the third Last Supper gets lost, and thus Wilson’s troubles start. He tries to pay off Gareth, the owner of the lost prop, but Gareth wants more for the loss, supposedly because of its sentimental value. Last Supper number three is a gift from his uncle and was bought in Saudi Arabia, of all places.

When they fail to settle the issue at the Barangay (village) level, Gareth tries to box Wilson, but gets punched in the face instead by Wilson’s friend and assistant. Thus, on top of estafa, he also has to deal with serious physical injury, and both cases will net him seven years in jail if proven guilty. At the city fiscal’s office, they agree to settle the case for P10,000, payable in installments for 90 days. Wilson settles everything within the agreed time frame, but just when he thinks his troubles are over, he receives a court order for failure to attend a hearing. It comes with an arrest warrant.

Last Supper is a solid film with a solid storyline, which is based on a true to life story. The way the filmmakers told Wilson’s tale is admirable, such that we see not only the corruption within the justice system, but also the suffering that its victims go through, while at the same time laughing at the foilies of both system and its players. Wilson’s only failure is in not knowing how it works, and what a lesson he learned by experience. I wonder if he had known it would cost him so much more in terms of lost work hours, lawyers’ fees, bribes, and the troubles of commuting between shooting locations and court hearings, he would have opted to give the money that Gareth and his mom asked. But Wilson has more than just innocence to spare him from serving jail time so survives to tell the tale – at Cinemalaya.

The story is real and it happens everyday to thousands of people figuring out the murky ways that legal problems are settled in this country. But Last Supper tells it so hilariously that you will feel sorry for Wilson while laughing at his experience. That’s how we all deal with our troubles and what keeps our sanity afloat: we deal with them one at a time, and then look back laughing because we have survived rich with wisdom at the experience. Acting is top-notch, having seasoned stage actors in lead roles, with Joey Paras as Wilson Nanawa. Maricel Soriano also makes a cameo appearance as a corrupt court assistant.

Rating: 5 Last Suppers. Catch it should it screen in movie theatres because you will miss a lot if you don’t.

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Joy and I also watched Dinig Sana Kita again, just so we could be at the gala premiere held at the Main Theatre. I will say it for the nth time, the audience reception was unbelievable. DSK is one crowd-pleasing film, to say the least. After the screening, we opted not to have our photos taken with the lead actors, but got a couple with Robert Sena and the “rock stars,” who were apparently popular as well, though I have no clue on which bands they play. It’s been ages since I frequented rock gigs, so maybe I should see more bands again, to think that Saguijo is just a couple of blocks from my apartment.