• The people lose every time

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    Giant corporations put people and the environment at risk. That is perhaps the price we all have pay, but then these behemoths are expected to own up to the responsibility when they foul up in the course of doing business.

    Not in this country. On the oil leakage that has plunged Cavite into a state of calamity, the stage is now being set for the exoneration of an as-yet unnamed company. That is the only conclusion we can make from the Coast Guard’s reluctance to identify the culprit.

    The government, which is to say the Filipino people, will end up paying for the cleanup. And what about the fishermen whose livelihood has been destroyed? Well, the firm is busy trying to evade responsibility to bother with them.

    That is all in character. The rich and the powerful get away with murder, and those in the government are complicit to the crime. The poor and the lower middle class, can complain and rail against the injustice of it all, but nothing will come out of it. Although they constitute the great majority of the population, they are politically powerless.

    The rich twist the law in their favor. Or the laws are enacted to suit their interests.

    Take the matter of taxation. The masses have their taxes withheld at the source, and so there is nothing they can do about it. The rich hide their wealth with the help of accountants and lawyers.

    Oh, the government from time to time files cases for tax evasion, but it has no genuine interest to win a favorable judgment. The prosecution and the defense and the judge conspire with one another, so the outcome has never been in doubt. Shakedown is the purpose, not justice.

    Just recently the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal by a Manila Regional Trial Court of the tax credit scam case filed by the Internal Revenue against Faustino and Gloria Chingkoe, husband and wife. It turned out that the Solicitor-General, who was tasked to represent the government, failed to attend the hearings, leaving the judge no choice but to dismiss the case.

    There are a hundred such cases, but we’ll just cite one example, the most egregious one.

    In October 2006, the Marikina MetropolitanTrial Court dismissed the tax evasion case against Lucio Tan, who then as now controls Fortune Tobacco Corporation. The government accused the taipan of setting up dummy corporations to act as buyers of the firm’s products, at a price much lower than the actual price. It submitted in evidence the articles of incorporation showing Fortune employees as the owners, but the court, hewing to the defense’ line, said they were “former employees.”

    What about the government’s P25 billion loss in tax deficiency? Ah, basta, the judge ruled that “the prosecution failed to prove that Fortune owned even a single share of stock in what the BIR alleged were its dummy corporations.” If Tan is convicted and made to pay, the judge grandly proclaimed, “the presumption of innocence, which is at the core of our criminal justice system, would lose its sense of value and sensible attribute.”

    Now the government wants Manny Pacquiao to settle a P2 billion tax deficiency. Well, good luck to Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares. The judge only needs a really good argument upon which to hung a decision of acquittal, and there are plenty of lawyers around to supply it.

    The rich don’t carry their own weight. Thus, the schoolteachers and factory workers end up paying more than lawyers and, there’s no doubt about it, more than the Tans, Chingkoes, and Pacquiaos of this world, percentage-wise at least. Hell, factory workers pay more taxes than the Filipino taipans who land year after year in Fortune 500’s world’s richest.

    Never ever entertain the thought that the slum dwellers don’t pay taxes just because they don’t file income tax returns. In fact, they are the most taxed people on the planet. It is they who consume the cigarettes and, to drown their sorrows, the cheap liquor that the rich produce. And don’t forget the instant noodles their children eat for breakfast. These goods—if they can be called that—are taxed before they leave the factory gates, and the manufacturers pass on the cost to them.

    Most heart-rending of all, whatever taxes extracted from the poor are stolen by their leaders to finance their luxurious lifestyle: flashy cars, a condominium in New York or an apartment at Ritz Carlton Los Angeles, the education of their children in exclusive schools here and abroad.

    It may not be true that certain senators and congressmen have signed over their pork barrel allocations to non-government organizations (NGOs), the allegations against them notwithstanding. The woman identified to have orchestrated the whole scheme may be innocent after all.

    There is no doubt, however, that P10 billion has been stolen and that the system has been manipulated to achieve that very purpose. It was a scheme unparalleled in depravity.

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