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Our issue for November 19, 2005


November 19, 2005 Issue

Main Features

1. Cover: Age of Majority (House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles)
By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

2. Sunset Joe
For the first time, House Speaker Jose de Venecia feels threatened. The majority in the House killed a motion to declare all positions vacant, but members of the ruling coalition are meeting in blocs and sharpening their knives and they will surely use those vile blades on him when they get the numbers. While Malacañang wants de Venecia out for insisting that President Arroyo must step down after the Constitution has been amended, the majority in the House feel de Venecia has sinned against them in many ways, not the least of them his frequent absences. He is always in the United Nations, they complain, neglecting his duties as leader of the House. But that is just a minor gripe. His mortal sin is agreeing to slashing the House members’ share of the pork barrel from P70 million each to only P40 million for this year, although all of them also agreed to the cut, sold as they have been to Mrs. Arroyo’s claim of a fiscal crisis in the government. But de Venecia is not following up the releases of funds in Malacañang, appearing to have lost interest in patronage since a shift to the parliamentary system is imminent. Well, that’s what he thinks. The Constitution may be amended, but if Mrs. Arroyo will still be there after the amendment, Filipinos will surely reject the proposed new constitution in the referendum and the presidential system will stay. Will there be pork for the MPs? Now that’s another thing that de Venecia has not made clear to the House members—because he is always in the United Nations. What the hell is he doing there? Why doesn’t he just ask to be appointed ambassador to the United Nations and leave the House to another leader who will mind the store full-time? And there’s the question of the bonuses for the maximum protection the majority gave to Mrs. Arroyo during the impeachment process in September. Where are the bonuses? The rattled de Venecia is trying to stamp out the fire, but he has already shown where his heart is and Malacañang, offended by his talking to foreign correspondents about Mrs. Arroyo not having any choice but to step down in 2007, is not helping him. Lakas Rep. Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur is the Palace’s choice for a new speaker. Unless de Venecia finds something in his hat in the next three weeks, he will just be Lakas Rep. Jose de Venecia of Pangasinan, a station not worth anything in the United Nations.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

3. Visiting Rapists
The US government is not reacting like that American bastard on television, probably a permanent fixture in Ermita’s red-light district who thinks all Filipino women who go out with foreigners are prostitutes. Rape not being an offense that could be committed in the line of duty, the US Embassy is holding the five US Marines involved in the rape of the 22-year-old Zamboanga woman whose case has become a test for the effectiveness of the legal provisions of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. The two governments are cooperating for the resolution of the case and apart from a witness’s retraction of his testimony, the five US servicemen appear to be headed for jail or the gas chamber. The flip-flopper, the driver of the vehicle used in the rape, could go with them. He is facing perjury charges for turning around after giving a sworn statement to local authorities. The Filipinos’ anger in this case is expected, but the US government is not covering up for the servicemen. Maybe somebody or some group should find that bastard on television and bring libel charges against him on behalf of the victim.
By Guiller de Guzman and Butch Serrano

4. Wage Hike or Tax Cuts?
Days after boldly calling for “a reasonable wage increase? to be legislated by Congress, President Arroy shrinks back muttering something about a “quadripartite consultation? among labor, the government, employers and Congress to decide how wage earners can be helped to survive the economic havoc to be wrought by the expanded value-added tax. Her loud talk of a legislated wage increase has been met with warnings by employers of shutdowns and layoffs, not really exaggerated because most businesses in the Philippines are small enterprises and it is on these that the economy rides. Lose the small businesses and the economy collapses. But involving Congress in the consultation is a good idea, because there are good proposals in Congress that could help wage earners survive the VAT nightmare. These are the proposed cut in withholding tax, personal income tax, and the rent control law. Reformulate the withholding tax to allow wage earners some savings, halve the personal income tax to help them send their kids to schools, and lower the bar in rent control, say, from P5,000 and lower, and add a small wage increase, something that will not hurt employers much, and maybe, just maybe, the small people will survive the VAT.
By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

5. Where There’s Smoke. . .
Is Fidel Ramos really plotting to topple President Arroyo? He has met with her and House Speaker Jose de Venecia for a compromise on her term after the amendment of the Constitution. Ramos wants her to step down, as he has proposed to end the leadership crisis. She will save face and the nation can go on, with a new government to start all over again. But Mrs. Arroyo is not interested in saving face, not with Congress under her control, and Congress will amend the Constitution to keep her in power up to 2010. Ramos has rejected her plan. What is he doing now? There are reports, denied by Malacañang but probably true, that the military is watching Ramos. There’s also talk of a coup, blamed by Malacañang on the opposition, although it was a Palace ally, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who started it. It is not possible that a former president of the Philippines will use the military or part of it to use force on Mrs. Arroyo. It is more likely that Mrs. Arroyo, having forfeit Ramos’s support, is getting back on Ramos. You just don’t cross Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, remember? The people have started to try her for her sins against the nation. The trial at the “people’s court? is not legal, of course, but it can call world attention to the Filipinos’ struggle against a new tyrant and this might help the campaign for international support that Ramos’s former military aides and officials are running to unseat Mrs. Arroyo without violating any laws. (Story may be turned around to lead on people’s court.)

Plus: Two (2) editorials


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