This blog does not claim to be always right. The blogger has no pretensions about being morally, politically, or ideologically correct. This blog contains random thoughts, rants, raves, hysterical protestations and sporadic thinking aloud by a person who is not out to please anyone or pander to anyone's idea of what is acceptable or ideal. Feel free to disagree, it is a free country.
This was my column at The Standard August 25, 2015.
What can we make of the fact that the seeming display of conscientiousness on the part of some government officials has been met by a lot of howling?
Two weeks ago, the initiative of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to regulate application-based ride-sharing services such as Uber and Grab Taxi was met by virulent protests. This happened even when the agency made it clear that it really just wanted to guarantee the safety of the riding public and to ensure that the right taxes were paid by the entrepreneurs behind the new transport services scheme.
And as we settled in for the three-day weekend, social networking sites were ablaze with fiery commentaries directed at the Bureau of Customs over the proposal to open balikbayan boxes to ensure that these are not being used to smuggle goods that would normally be subject to taxes.
In both cases, taxation was submitted as an issue. It is a given that any discussion about taxes is bound to get an emotional response in this country. Everyone agrees, of course, that taxation is the price people have to pay for the privilege of being called responsible citizens. The problem is that most people believe they are already overtaxed; an assertion that is not entirely baseless given that the tax table for working people who are automatically subjected to withholding taxes is higher in this country compared to most of our neighbors.
An even bigger problem is the perception that a huge chunk of taxpayers’ money is lost to corruption, or wasted on projects that are not necessary, or used to support the profligate lifestyles or advance the political careers of favored politicians. So people do have a reason to balk when asked to pay more taxes.
But what’s been riling people up is the fact that government seems more concerned with ensuring tax collection at the expense of more important considerations. In the case of Uber and Grab Taxi, a transportation system that actually works even without government intervention! More importantly, it’s a system that has provided a much better alternative to the poorly-run public transport system, which has increasingly become unreliable and unsafe despite regulatory oversight by government.
In the case of the balikbayan boxes, the uproar is due to perceptions of government’s insensitivity to the situation of overseas Filipino workers, misplaced priorities, and well, mistrust in the people who run the Bureau of Customs.
Any Filipino would know that those balikbayan boxes mean more than the goods they contain. Those tins of Spam, packets of chocolates, bars of soap and pieces of apparel carry a lot of symbolism; we’re a people that likes rituals, channels affection and emotions through material things and through certain acts, and we find expression in the time-honored traditions of pasalubong, pabaon, and pabilin. A balikbayan box not just a box of goodies, to the people at both ends of the system (sender and receiver) it represents fulfillment of a promise, or validation of one’s worth, or even a form of reassurance.
Given the fact that OFWs are the ones that prop up this country’s economy, surely we can afford to give them a little break. Allowing them and their families some privileges might be warranted. Besides, the value of the goods smuggled through balikbayan boxes may not be really worth the effort; the resources could be spent more productively in pursuit of big ticket items such as luxury cars. It’s basic Pareto Principle at work—why spend inordinate amount of effort on something that yields very little results? There are more reasons to ditch the madcap idea. It’s almost impossible to implement the proposal consistently thereby opening the system to accusations of favoritism and unfairness. And there’s always the possibility of pilferage or corruption.
We can take some comfort in the fact that we have officials who seem to have the drive to implement programs that are unpopular. One wishes, however, that the drive, the initiative, and the political will, be marshaled in support of programs that will truly make the most difference. I think our leaders are wasting precious political capital at this crucial time on the eve of a national election on programs that showcase utter lack of strategic thinking and which breed resentment among the people.
I've been having high blood pressure since last Thursday. I had to come home early from work last Thursday because I had a splitting headache and my bp was hovering at 140/120. It eventually went down to 130/90, which in my case is still quite high since my regular bp is 100/70. I've been in bed the whole day yesterday and today - trying not to be stressed out. And yet, my bp is still at 130/100 levels. Sigh.
I would have wanted to join my friends on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Manaoag, but I was afraid the four-hour trip would aggravate my hypertension. Besides, I had a scheduled visit from a reflexologist who claimed to have healed so many with his healing touch. I figured the massage would be relaxing (yeah, I know and he knew that he had to be careful about putting pressure on the nape area).
So let's talk about the reflexology experience first. What can I say, I wish I had the same level of faith as this particular reflexologist. He kept chattering on and on a…
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Dear Tita Cory, Senators, Congressmen, Businessmen, Media people, Leftists, and all Bleeding Hearts Out There:
I am angry. And I know that there are many out there who are angrier than I am for the same reason. And that reason is simple. I am sick and tired of all you guys claiming to speak for me and many Filipinos. I feel like screaming every time you mouth words about fighting for my freedom and my rights, when you obviously are just thinking about yours. You tell me that the essence of democracy is providing every citizen the right to speak his or her mind and make his or her own informed judgments, but you yourselves do not respect my silence and the choices I and many others have made. In other words, your concept of democracy is limited to having your rights and your freedoms respected, at the expense of ours.
I am utterly flabbergasted that you still do not get it: we already responded to your calls, and our response has been very clear - we chose not to heed your calls to go to…