First, this writer apologizes for any offense this article may give to women. There is no intention to demean their service in government, least of all by a former official appointed by the second lady president in Philippine history.
Still, one raises issues concerning recent pronouncements by top women officials. They are, in ascending pay grade, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, Chief Peace Negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Aquino’s classmate Henares rightly insists that all pay right taxes, including beauty queens and sports champions. Some may feel, though, that her repeated reminders to Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach may be overkill.
More important, can Henares also raise hell and flex investigative muscle with well-connected parties evading levies dwarfing Wurtzbach’s tax bill? For instance, has the top taxwoman said or done anything about more than 2,000 cargo containers disappeared in 2011 with no taxes paid?
Importations fall under the Bureau of Customs, but the BIR can investigate and prosecute any failure to pay taxes, especially when the BoC does nothing, as in the vanished containers.
Henares can ask for the list of importers of containers purportedly mislaid between Manila and Batangas ports, and review the tax returns of those who “lost” the most cargo.
And while she’s at it, do the same for even more untaxed boxes missing after leaving Subic by the hundreds in recent months. Yes, the 2011 scam is back, according to a longtime broker in the know. And revenue losses from even one container is many times anything due from Wurtzbach.
So, Commissioner Kim, kudos to your tax crusade — and get the really big fish.
Another laudable lady for her avowed goal of peace in Mindanao, is University of the Philippines political science professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
With the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill dead in Congress, Ferrer looks to the next legislature, believing there is nothing fatally wrong with the BBL and the MILF peace agreement.
Maybe she should put her professor’s cap back on and recall some hard questions.
Were there really no serious constitutional issues? Even BBL supporters like the Aquino-appointed panel headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide urged amendments and implicitly acknowledged that certain provisions might be interpreted in ways contravening the Constitution.
Did the pact and the BBL give ample weight to all key Mindanao groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front and the Lumads? No less than the Organization of Islamic Cooperation told the MNLF and the MILF to reconcile their peace accords.
And Ferrer should truthfully answer this question at least for herself: Was the Mamasapano raid in a rebel-held area wise and prudent, as well as the military’s decision not to rescue the beleaguered police commandos, purportedly to preserve the MILF agreement, as Armed Forces Chief Gregorio Catapang told the Senate?
Restarting the peace process begins with admitting flaws in the MILF deal and the BBL, and how Aquino’s actions hurt their prospects.
Ombudsman Morales is back in the headlines blazing at the Binays. The newspaper that bannered her statements against Vice-President Jejomar Binay and his son, dismissed Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, noted: “Interestingly, the [Office of the Ombudsman, or OMB] issued its decisions a few weeks after Binay regained the top spot in voter preference polls in May’s presidential elections.”
The report cited decisions turning down motions for reconsideration by the younger Binay on his dismissal and the filing of charges last October. The news writer perhaps wondered why it took three months to determine that there was nothing new in the MRs. And Morales’s insistence that she can investigate the VP just repeats her past position.
What may add to speculation that her statements were timed just before the official start of campaigning today is her silence on a more topical matter: the finding by Senator Grace Poe’s committee last week that Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya should be charged in the corruption case filed by the OMB over the anomalous Metro Rail Transit maintenance contract.
Doesn’t that direct and open challenge to the Ombudsman’s decision to let Abaya off the hook, warrant a more urgent response before her regurgitated spiels on the VP and his son?
Speaking of her avowed constitutional authority to probe impeachable officials, can Morales please update the nation on her investigation of Aquino’s P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program, the biggest malversation in Philippine history?
The Supreme Court ordered her one and a half years ago to probe and charge DAP “authors” (see http://www.manilatimes.net/how-the-ombudsman-can-prove-she-is-not-biased/226156/ ). The OMB got the DAP field report back in September. Morales also said then that President Aquino and the Budget Department were respondents.
Her probe is helped by the Supreme Court’s finding, cited in its unanimous decision voiding DAP last July: “Upon careful review of the documents contained in the seven evidence packets [in the case], we conclude that the ‘savings’ pooled under the DAP were allocated to PAPs [programs and projects]not covered by any appropriations in the pertinent GAAs” or national budget laws.
If disbursing public funds with no budget isn’t malversation, what is?
Hence, Filipinos want to know if Aquino, who signed and approved hundreds of DAP disbursements, would face preliminary investigation and possible prosecution when his term ends — or go scot-free like Abaya?
The foundlings’ advocate
Our final woman appointee of Aquino has taken up the cudgels for another lady who, many political pundits say, is his last hope for protection from prison after his immunity from prosecution ends.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has set aside the CJ’s usual and rightful reserve in controversial cases, and vigorously argued for a decision reversing the Commission on Elections ruling disqualifying Senator Poe as presidential candidate.
Many articles have expertly and eloquently expounded on Poe’s petition and Sereno’s advocacy for foundlings. Most telling of their points are the Judiciary’s duty to interpret laws, not amend them; and to put the people’s sovereign will as expressed in the Constitution above the wishes of one segment, no matter how heart-rending.
Or one man, no matter how powerful.