Thursday, July 31, 2008

SONA Reactions..Part 2

Malolos bishop: Trust President Arroyo on eVAT

07/31/2008 | 10:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines — A Roman Catholic bishop on Thursday said the government was correct in imposing the expanded value-added tax (eVAT) and that Filipinos should trust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because "what she is doing is for the good of the nation."

Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros argued that if properly collected and accounted for, the VAT can do much good.

He said the VAT may hurt the pockets of many people but it is still their clear obligation to the government. He said it is the prerogative of the government to impose the VAT that would be used to fund programs for the people.

"We are not the only country with VAT. Other countries such as the United States have their own, which is even higher than ours," Oliveros said in an interview over Church-run Radyo Veritas, excerpts of which were posted on Thursday on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

Oliveros earlier reminded President Arroyo that it is a moral obligation to be transparent about the VAT the government collects.

"Nandoon 'yung transparency, yung mahalagang tungkulin na gamitin ang mga buwis na nakuha para sa kabutihan ng sambayanan," (It is important that government shows transparency in using taxes, to make sure taxes benefit the people)," he said.

He also echoed President Arroyo's line that her "Katas ng VAT" program is for the poorest of the poor who would benefit from it.

"Because of VAT, the government is able to provide subsidy to the needy. Subsidy means poorest of the poor," said Oliveros, whose stand differed from those of other bishops.

Lacson urges Arroyo to fire SONA speech writer

MANILA, Philippines - Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson advised President Arroyo to fire the speech writer of her State of the Nation Address (SONA)who “tricked" her on the 50¢ cut on text messaging rates.

Lacson said Mrs. Arroyo was misled into believing the 50¢ slash was due to her efforts to lower short messaging service (SMS) rates, when it was a promotion of telecommunications firms.

"Dapat ang gawin ni Mrs. Arroyo, i-fire niya ang sino ang nag-include or nag-insert ng portion na yan sa kanyang SONA. Agad-agad. (What Mrs. Arroyo should do is fire that speech writer who inserted that part about the text rate slash in her SONA. And she should do it soonest),"
he said.

Arroyo's claim on the rate cut drew cheers at the SONA, but it drew flak after subscribers learned it was only a promotion offer, and that they needed to register to avail of it.

Arroyo allies turn tables on Lopezes over Marcos comparison

07/30/2008 | 04:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s allies at the House of Representatives on Wednesday turned the tables on the Lopezes for comparing the present administration to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

At least three lawmakers were one in saying that unlike during Marcos’ rule, the Lopezes who run the Manila Electric Co. are now totally free to air their sentiments.

On Tuesday, Oscar M. Lopez, the patriarch of the Lopez family, said that with the Arroyo administration’s attempt to seize control of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), it is as though the Marcos’ dictatorship never ended.

“It is happening again today, as officials of both the executive and legislative branches of government are ganging up on the Lopez management in Meralco when their real gripe is with ABS-CBN," said in a speech during the forum on “Leadership in Times of Crisis" in Makati City.

The state pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), which has a 22-percent stake in Meralco, wants to take over the power firm, claiming that the Lopez family had been mismanaging it and overpricing energy rates to the detriment of consumers.

Lopez claimed that the government’s attempt to seize control of the Meralco was actually targeted at ABS-CBN, the Lopez family’s flagship, which had been critical of the administration.

But Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, chairman of the House appropriations committee, said the comparison was “intellectually dishonest" because “we have right now the rule of law, democratic space and freedom of the press."

Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite said the allegation is baseless since under the free-spirited press policy of the Arroyo government, no media entity – the Lopezes’ ABS-CBN included – was ever muzzled or censored, even if the broadcast news it was airing was anti-government.

“ABS-CBN can run any program it wants, air any opinion it holds, and broadcast any news it deems fit for public consumption – all free from censorship. I think that is the standard by which we should gauge if press freedom has been denied to this entity," he said.

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