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US envoy reaffirms US commitment to Mindanao development

MANILA – US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim traveledto Davao on March 27. While in Davao, the Ambassador had a friendly,productive meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte. They discussed the extensive ‎bilateral partnership over the years as well as cooperation on counterterrorism, child protection, piracy, and economic development in Mindanao. The Ambassador highlighted US-Philippine partnerships in the region that strengthen the local economy and promote peace and stability.

Ambassador Kim also gave remarks at a luncheon meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce Mindanao, conveying the US government’s wholehearted support of the vibrant US-Philippine economic relationship, and emphasizing the Embassy’s commitment to development in Mindanao. Honoring Women’s HistoryMonth, Ambassador Kim highlighted the Embassy’s US Agency for International Development funding of a project training women to weave nets that stop erosion and landslides along the roadways in Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur.

Overall, the US government has pledged more than P3.5 billion fordozens of projects in Mindanao over the next few years, including the Roll-on,Roll-off, or RO-RO, nautical highway. On April 30, the route will connect the cities of Davao and General Santos to Bitung in the Sulawesi Island of Indonesia. This accomplishment will help US and Philippine businesses operating in Mindanao increase their exports at great savings.

The Ambassador also shared a few concrete examples of the close business ties between US companies and Mindanao. Demand from US clients generates an estimated 40,000well-paying BPO jobs in Mindanao. Cargill, a US agricultural corporation,exports P7.5 billion worth of coconut oil every year, much of which comes from Mindanao, supporting tens of thousands of Mindanao farmers. Together with its partners GIZ and BASF, Cargill has trained more than 1,000 coconut farmers since 2011 on improving agricultural practices. As a result, 300 small farmers from the region have been certified to produce the world’s first Rainforest Alliance certified copra, raising their incomes by 15 percent.


What if Hillary had won and issued a travel ban?

“Must a government be too strong for the liberties of its people or too weak to maintain its own existence?” – Abraham Lincoln

What if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency and had issued a travel ban against citizens of certain Muslim majority nations, what would the Democrats and their allies in the liberal, biased, pro-Democratic Party, media have said? Instead of jeers as their reaction to President Trump’s travel ban, they would be saying “cheers”. “She is strong on defense, strict on immigration.” It was the Obama administration that had identified the particular nations as potential sources of terrorists. Nobody would have sued her to stop the ban. It is the states where Hillary won that sued Trump – like Hawaii and Washington.
It is unfortunate that the protection of the American people, which President Trump promised during his campaign, has become politicized. Anything that President Trump does has been attacked. If he were to give a thousand dollars to everybody in the United States, he would be criticized: “Why not give a hundred thousand dollars.” And if he were to give a hundred thousand dollars, he would still be criticized: “Why not give a million dollars?”

You might not read or hear about this in the liberal, biased, pro-Democratic Party, media, but federal judges are divided on the issue of the validity of the travel ban, which would suspend for 90 days the entry of nationals from six countries, which were pinpointed by the Obama administration, to enable consulates abroad to conduct extensive background checks.
On March 15, 2017, a federal judge in Hawaii, Derrick Watson, issued an order granting a motion for temporary restraining order enjoining President Trump and officers of the United States from enforcing or implementing Sections 2 and 6 of Executive Order across the Nation. The judge posed the issue thus: National security is unquestionably important to the public at large, but the plaintiffs and the public have a vested interest in the “free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.” The question is: do the nationals of these 6 countries (and for that matter any country) have freedom to travel to America? Who gave them that right? If so, can citizens of the Philippines living abroad have freedom to travel to America? If their visa applications are denied, will the State of Hawaii sue on their behalf because they have “a vested interest in the free flow of travel”? Many Filipinos have been separated from their families living in the United States. Will the State of Hawaii also sue on their behalf to avoid separation of families?
On the other hand, on March 24, 2017, a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, Judge Anthony Trenga, refused to block President Trump’s revised executive order. Judge Trenga pointed out that the issue was not whether the order “is wise, necessary, under- or over-inclusive, or even fair” but whether the order “falls within the bounds of the President’s statutory authority or whether the President has exercised that authority in violation of constitutional restraints.” He noted that there is no “facially discriminatory order coupled with contemporaneous statements suggesting discriminatory intent.” The judge indicated that the court cannot conclude for the purposes of the motion that these statements, together with the President's past statements, have effectively disqualified him from exercising his lawful presidential authority." See https://www.docdroid.net/zXkmJ4O/sarsour-opinion.pdf.html
Judge Trenga said that “Congress has the exclusive constitutional authority to create immigration policies.” In exercising that authority, Congress has enacted Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act which provides:
“(f) Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
Congress has already spoken in clear and certain terms. It vested upon the President the power and duty to “suspend” the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as “he may deem to be appropriate”. The law does not say, as “he may deem to be appropriate with the approval of the courts.” The President is the sole judge of when to “suspend” the entry of aliens. The law does not give the courts any say on this matter, otherwise Congress would have said so. Expresio unius, est exclusio alterius. (The express mention of one thing excludes all others). Judge Trenga said that “the President has unqualified authority to bar the physical entry to the United States at the border”.
Five U.S. Court of Appeals judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who supported a rehearing en banc (by the full court) of the travel ban case (after a 3-judge panel refused to lift the injunction against the first travel ban) led by Judge Jay Bybee said that President Trump’s Executive Order of January 27, 2017, suspending the entry of certain aliens, “was authorized by statute, and presidents have frequently exercised that authority through executive orders and presidential proclamations. Whatever we, as individuals, may feel about the President or the Executive Order, the President’s decision was well within the powers of the presidency,” and “[t]he wisdom of the policy choices made by [the President] is not a matter for our consideration.” Judge Bybee emphasized that “The exclusion of aliens is a fundamental act of sovereignty.” Judge Bybee pointed out that: "We are judges, not Platonic guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decision to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress."

Judges against the travel ban claim that Trump was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiments in imposing the travel ban. They cite Trump’s campaign speeches. Trump clarified in his campaign speeches that what he meant was “extreme vetting” (background check).
The Hawaii judge in his order blocking President Trump’s Executive Order acknowledged that the Government appropriately cautioned that “courts should not look into the ‘veiled psyche’ and ‘secret motives’ of government decision makers and may not undertake a ‘judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts.’
The Virginia judge refused to psychoanalyze President Trump for his motives in issuing the travel ban.
If psychoanalyzing lawmakers was allowed, one could challenge the anti-dog eating laws of certain states as unconstitutionally motivated against ethnic origin and race by psychoanalyzing the legislators to unveil their “veiled psyche” and “secret motive” to discriminate against nationals of certain Asian countries.
OBSERVATION: In a letter to the editor of a Hawaii newspaper with Democratic leanings on 3/26/2016, the female writer said that Hawaii Judge Watson was a classmate of former President Obama and that Obama was coincidentally in Hawaii when the Judge issued his temporary restraining order (TRO). But in another letter to the editor of the same newspaper, the woman writer was quick to point out that there is no connection with the issuance of the TRO. As Hamlet’s mother remarked: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” Me says nobody is claiming that one plus one equals TRO.

(Atty. Tipon has a Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School where he specialized in Constitutional Law. He has also a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. He placed third in the Philippine Bar Examination in 1956. His current practice focuses on immigration law and criminal defense. He writes law books for the world’s largest law book publishing company and writes legal articles for newspapers. He has a radio show in Honolulu, Hawaii with his son Noel, senior partner of the Bilecki & Tipon law firm, where they discuss legal and political issues. Office: American Savings Bank Tower, 1001 Bishop Street, Suite 2305, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A. 96813. Tel. (808) 225-2645. E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Website: www.bileckilawgroup.com. He was born in Laoag City, Philippines. He served as a U.S. Immigration Officer. He is co-author with former Judge Artemio S. Tipon of the best-seller “Winning by Knowing Your Election Laws” and co-author of “Immigration Law Service, 1st ed.,” an 8-volume practice guide for immigration officers and lawyers. Atty. Tipon has personally experienced the entire immigration cycle by entering the United States on a non-immigrant working visa to write law books, adjusting his status to that of a lawful permanent resident, and becoming a naturalized United States citizen.)



Breast Implant and cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported last week that “nine deaths and hundreds of cases of a rare cancer have been linked with breast implants.”

The malignancy here is not breast cancer but an immune system cancer known as anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL). The cancer nurtures itself in the breast, notably in the scar tissue around the foreign body implant. Fortunately, in most cases this is treatable.

The implant-cancer link was noted in 2011. As of February 2017, the FDA has recorded 359 cases of ALCL linked to breast implant.

The Times reported stated “the disease is most likely to occur with textured implants that have a pebbly surface rather than a smooth surface…and of the 359 reported cases, there was information about the implant surface in 231. Of those, 203 patients had textured implants and 28 had smooth implants….Whether the implants contained silicone gel or saline appeared much less important than surface texture in disease risk.” The number of this ALCL cases worldwide is not known.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons there were about 290,000 women in the United States in 2016 who had implants for breast enlargement and 109,000 received implants for reconstruction after breast cancer surgery.”
Any pain, lumps, fluid accumulation or swelling of the breast after an implant, no matter when surgery was done need to be evaluated by the surgeon.
To prevent blindness
A retrospective study published in the JAMA Ophthalmology found that many children and adolescents with diabetes are not being screened in a timely fashion for diabetic retinopathy, a common cause of blindness among diabetics.
Diabetic retinopathy is a dangerous complication of diabetes which causes blood vessels in the eyes to leak, causing distortion of vision and can eventually lead to blindness. In early stages, this disease of the retina may not have symptoms.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommends retinopathy screening be performed five years after a diagnosis of type 1 (Juvenile) diabetes is confirmed to reduce the risk of blindness. For those with type 2 diabetes, common among adults, screening is done at the time diagnosis is made, not later.
Diabetics and parents/guardians of diabetic children are advised to confer with their attending physician about this retinal screening.
Dangers of body art

Body Art is a popular fad especially among adolescents and young adults, which includes tattooing or body part piercing. The tattoos are usually on the chest, arms, belly, butts, ankles, or on just about any area of the body. They come in different shapes, design, color and various objects, like a girl, snake, flag, heart, words of protest or love messages. It is estimated that 10% to 25% of young adults (25 and under) have at least one tattoo.

A survey in one university involving 454 students (236 females and 218 males), which was 14% of the total enrollment, revealed that 23% (106) of them had one to three tattoos. This could well mirror the prevalence in other schools and universities in the country, perhaps higher in big cities, compared to the conservative communities. The most popular sites were the back among women and the arms and hands among men. One hundred twenty nine (51%) of those surveyed had a least one body piercing, 90% of men having had ears pierced, and 54% of the females had pierced navel, 49% ears and 27%, the tongue. Some of both the males and females had pierced nipples, eyebrows and genitalia.

Complications of body art include infection of the tattooed or pierced skin, transmission of hepatitis B and C, and HIV (AIDS). Allergic reaction, besides pain, swelling and bleeding, are potential complications of tattooing or body piercing. Keloid and scar formation is another. Infection is common because the needle and instruments used for tattooing or body piercing are mostly not medically sterile. A significant number of patients with hepatitis subsequently develop hepatoma, cancer of the liver, which is deadly.


Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria, whose toxin produces muscle paralysis among the victims of botulism food poisoning. Advances in medical technology has made it possible for physicians, usually plastic surgeons, to use the botulinum toxin (botox) as a shot in the face to induce transient and localized paralysis in the facial muscles to smoothen out wrinkles between the eyebrows, for frown lines and furrowed brows. The cosmetic effect has been impressive, but this is temporary. Besides this, botox shot has also been found to stave off migraine headaches among individuals who are resistant to conventional therapy. There are many more uses of this “good” toxin in clinical medicine today.
Colonoscopy saves lives
Colonoscopy is a procedure where a flexible endoscope (malleable tube like a telescope), equipped with fiberoptic lighting and (video CCD) camera, is passed through the anus, to view and examine the inner walls of the colon (large bowels) and distal part of the small bowels for any abnormality, like bleeding, ulcers, or the presence of benign poly(s), or cancer. Thru the colonoscope, excision of polyps, or biopsies may also be performed for a definitive microscopic tissue diagnosis. A sigmoidoscope is another scope that examines the final two feet of the colon, while the colonoscope examines the rest of the entire colon which is about four to five feet long. Many times it is done in conjunction with colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer is the third-most common cancer in humans, topped only by cancer of the lungs and female breasts. More than 150,000 people in the United States each year discover they have cancer of the colon or rectum, and approximately 46,000 will die from it this year alone. The incidence starts to rise at the age 40 and the peak is between ages 60 to 75. Colon cancer is more common among women and cancer of the rectum among men. About 5% of the patients have both (synchronous cancer).

It appears that meat eaters have higher risk for the development of colorectal cancer. This malignancy is found more prevalent in populations whose diet is low in fiber and high in animal proteins, fats, and refined carbohydrates. The incidence of colorectal cancer is indeed high among those who eat red meat (pork, beef, etc) compared to those who eat high fiber diets (vegetables, fruits, wheat, bran, etc) and fish. The other predisposing factors include chronic ulcerative colitis, ganulomatous colitis, and familial polyposis. The older the person is, the higher the risk. Smoking and alcohol abuse increase the risk for cancer in general.

Everyone 50 years old and older should have an annual fecal occult blood test (FOBT), a rectal digital exam, and a prophylactic colonoscopy every 3 to 5 years. Those with a strong family history of cancer should have the examinations more frequently in accordance with the physician’s determination.

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The changing of the president  

The word “impeachment” has been used more often these days in the Philippines and in the United States as more and more critics of both President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte have taken to social media to denounce the actions and policies of the two leaders.
This talk about impeachment is not a new thing. Actually many people are very familiar with this constitutional procedure for removing a sitting president from office.
The usual route for changing an administration is through presidential elections, but for terms of four years in the U.S. and six years in the Philippines, many find these too long for presidents who in their first months have already done major missteps in their jobs as chief executives.
The Philippines and the United States have many things in common with regards to their political systems particularly their form of government with three branches.
In the United States Constitution it is stated that "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," while in the 1987 Philippine constitution the grounds for removal from office on impeachment are for “conviction of, . . . culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
Impeachment though does not imply “forceful removal.” Under the constitution of both the U.S. and the Philippines, impeachment takes place in the House of Representatives if a majority approves the submitted articles of impeachment. The impeachment proceeding then goes to the Senate where a two-thirds majority vote is required to convict the president which would then lead to his or her removal.
In the Philippines, no impeachment proceedings can be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
President Rodrigo Duterte has not completed the first year of his six-year term of office and an impeachment complaint was already filed against him in the House of Representatives citing murder, crimes against humanity in connection with the extrajudicial deaths and his alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad, and corruption, as grounds.
This impeachment complaint might not prosper since President Duterte has the support of the majority in the House of Representatives. But with the call from the international community to revoke Philippine trade privileges in a bid to hold President Duterte accountable for his alleged support of the killings in his war on drugs, and if the nation’s economy gets into a downward state, Duterte’s popularity can wane fast and realignment of political forces will surely take place.
President Duterte may also be violating the constitution in his handling of the territorial issues against China since he is mandated to defend the national territory.
Outside of elections, only two Philippine presidents were “booted out” of power. First, there was President Ferdinand Marcos who fled the Philippines during the 1986 EDSA People Power uprising and the second, President Joseph Estrada, left Malacanang Palace after another people’s uprising in 2001. In Estrada’s case, he was deposed in a “constitutional-coup” and replaced by his vice president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Estrada allegedly “resigned” or was “incapacitated” and this led to Macapagal-Arroyo being sworn as president.
In the U.S., articles of impeachment were passed against then President Richard Nixon by a congressional committee but Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives could vote on his impeachment.
President Bill Clinton was impeached by the lower house and tried in the senate but was acquitted and remained in office.
There are many issues surrounding the Trump presidency that are being collected and investigated that may potentially be impeachable offenses. However at this time, with Trump’s political party having control of both houses in congress, the possibility of his impeachment is still remote.
Remember Nixon and Clinton faced impeachment when their respective parties were not the majority in congress. For Trump to be impeached, members of his own party would have to turn against him.

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.


EU summons Filipino envoy to explain Duterte tirade

MANILA, Philippines — The European Union on Monday summoned a Philippine envoy to explain an expletive-laden tirade by President Rodrigo Duterte, who threatened to hang EU officials for opposing his efforts to re-impose the death penalty.
The EU's external action service, the equivalent of a foreign office, said it hauled Charge d'Affaires Alan Deniega in to its Brussels headquarters to provide "an explanation for the recent, unacceptable comments of President Duterte."
The move highlights growing European exasperation with the president. Earlier, the EU denied his allegations that it proposed solving the Philippines' drug problem by creating treatment clinics where illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine would be dispensed.
The EU Delegation to the Philippines issued a statement saying it has not "suggested, discussed, proposed or considered the use of any substitution drugs when treating addiction to methamphetamine ... or any other drug addiction in the Philippines." It did not mention Duterte by name.

Duterte, who has lashed out at the EU repeatedly for raising human rights concerns over his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, said in a speech Friday the EU had proposed a "health-based solution" to the drug problem that involved dispensing methampetamine, locally known as shabu, cocaine or heroin.
He branded the supposed EU proposal a "government-sponsored idiotic exercise."

"The sons of bitches, they want us to build clinics, then we should, instead of arresting or putting them in prison like in other countries, you go there and if you want shabu they will inject you or give you shabu," he said in a speech before Filipino-Chinese businessmen. "Then if you want cocaine, they will give you cocaine and if they want heroin, they will give you heroin."
The EU said that in cooperation with the World Health Organization and experts, it was working with Manila's Department of Health and the government's main anti-drug agency and selected villages to implement a program that "aims to support recovery from addiction, while keeping families together and facilitating development of social and job skills."
The voluntary program plans to develop "recovery clinics and recovery homes," where patients can receive better care, education and counseling without prescribing medication and ensuring confidentiality. Livelihood skills will be taught, the EU said.
Thousands have died under Duterte's crackdown, which was launched after he took office in June, alarming the EU, Western governments and U.N. rights officials.
Duterte has said he will not be intimidated by threats by critics to impeach him or file a case against him before the International Criminal Court for the killings, mostly of poor drug dealers and users. He has denied condoning extrajudicial killings but has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death and said he is ready to rot in jail to protect Filipinos from atrocious crimes linked to drugs.

By Jim Gomez (Associated Press)
AP Writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.


AFP contradicts PNP on Maute presence in Metro Manila

MANILA – The Philippine military said it has not monitored the presence of Maute Group members in Metro Manila, contradicting claims made by the police that the local terrorist group based in Central Mindanao has penetrated the country's capital.
"Insofar as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is concerned, wala tayong na-monitor na members ng Maute Group dito sa Metro Manila (we have not monitored the presence of Maute Group members here in Metro Manila)," said AFP Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo on Tuesday, March 21.
The police said they found an improvised explosive device (IED) at a residence in Barangay Culiat in Quezon City, where they believe the Maute Group members behind the foiled attempt against the United States embassy in November 2016 have been hiding.
The target was a suspected "Maute Group ally", a certain Jamil Baja Tawil who has an outstanding warrant for illegal possession of firearms. He was not in the house so the owner, Nasip Ibrahim, was instead arrested for allegedly coddling the terrorists.
"Whether they are supporters or members of Maute Group themselves, it is up to the PNP to make an assessment and we respect it," Arevalo added.
The military is also involved in the investigation of the foiled bombing at the US embassy. "Kung mayroon man na-involve sa foiled bomb attack, ito ay nandoon na ulit sa Mindanao," said Arevalo. (If there are members who were involved in the foiled bomb attack, they are already back in Mindanao.)
The military has been fighting the local terrorist group in Central Mindanao and closely monitoring its movements.
The AFP's aim is to significantly weaken the group by June 2017, its self-imposed target.
Arevalo said the military is always on alert and closely coordinating with the police. – Rappler.com


BIR files P9.56-B tax evasion case vs Mighty Corp

MANILA – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has filed a P9.564-billion tax evasion complaint against cigarette firm Mighty Corporation and its executives for allegedly using fake stamps on their products to dodge excise tax payment.
BIR Public Information Chief Reymarie Dela Cruz confirmed that the agency filed the complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Wednesday morning, March 22.
The complaint is filed against Mighty, together with its officers: retired general Edilberto Adan, president; retired judge Oscar Barrientos, executive vice president; Alexander Wongchuking, vice president for external affairs and assistant corporate secretary; and Ernesto Victa, treasurer.
The BIR said the complaint is based on "Unlawful Possession of Articles Subject to Excise Tax without Payment of the Tax, and for Possessing False, Counterfeit, Restored or Altered Stamps, in violation of Sections 263 and 265(c) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended (Tax Code)."
The complaint was filed following raids of the Bureau of Customs, BIR personnel, and local police on Mighty's warehouses in Sad Isidro, Pampanga yielding billions of pesos worth of cigarettes with fake stamps.
Mighty promised to cooperate with the government.
“The company welcomes the filing by the BIR of the complaint as it provides us an opportunity to clear our names and show we violated no tax laws,” Mighty's legal counsel, Sigfried Fortun, told Rappler in a text message.
Fake tax stamps
The BIR noted that the only Mighty production plant registered with the bureau is the one in Barangay Tikay in Malolos, Bulacan.
It was then discovered that 4 warehouses at the San Simon Industrial Park (SSIP) in San Isidro, Pampanga were being leased to Mighty.
BIR personnel inspected the Pampanga warehouses and random tested 10 master cases of cigarettes. BIR personnel declared the tax stamps on all 10 cases as fake.
After an inventory of all 66,281 master cases, the BIR found that 87.5% of the total 33,140,500 packs of cigarettes had fake tax stamps.
"The stamps are fake since they did not contain one of the multi-layered security features of a valid internal revenue stamp," the BIR said in a statement.
BIR also noted that because the Malolos warehouse was the only one registered with the BIR, tax stamps should have been affixed on the cigarettes inside the Malolos warehouse premises.
"They were not affixed at the production plant of Mighty Corporation in Barangay Tikay, Malolos, Bulacan as required by law since no official delivery receipts for the SSIP warehouses were presented by the respondent," the BIR said.
Duterte offer
The BIR pursued the case even after Mighty owner Alexander Wongchuking took the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to pay the government P3 billion, which is "double" the P1.5 billion worth of Mighty cigarettes found with fake stamps.
Duterte threw the challenge to Wongchuking on March 9, and said in a media interview that if the businessman agreed, he would "forget about the printing of P1.5 billion worth of fake stamps."
Wongchuking wrote the Office of the President a week later to inform the Chief Executive that he was ready to settle for P3 billion – P1 billion up front, and the rest to be paid on instalment.
The amount of taxes Mighty allegedly owes the government, however, is more than thrice as much.
The President had earlier ordered the arrest of the Mighty owner for alleged "economic sabotage."
The President's directive, however, was not carried out then as there were no pending charges against Wongchuking. Instead, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued Immigration Lookout Bulletin Orders against Wongchuking and his brother, Caesar.
Mighty had denied the use of fake tax stamps, and alleged that based on its own check, the BIR used "faulty" machines during its raids.
The case against Mighty is the ninth case filed by the BIR since it started its Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) program when BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay took office. – Rappler.com


PH trade looking bright despite headlines

MANILA – Despite all the headlines about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, foreign direct investments (FDI) last year was up by 40.7% – hitting $7.9 billion – compared to 2015.
What’s more, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez pointed out, while the bulk of the improvement came in the first half of the year at the twilight of former president Benigno Aquino III’s term, robust FDI also remained from June to December under the President Rodrigo Duterte.
“They’re all applying to enter the Philippine market. The trust is there," Lopez told Rappler recently.
The Duterte administration is battling criticism here and abroad for some controversial policies such as the war on drugs and the drive to reimpose the death penalty – issues that its Western partners have questioned.
A Philippine lawmaker reiterated the threat that the European Union could remove the Philippines from its GSP+ recipients following the push to reimpose death penalty.
Lopez downplayed these concerns, noting that the government has been "in discussion with [the US and EU] and we’re simply telling them look just continue to engage with the Philippines."
Otherwise, he added, "it gives us more reason to talk to other countries that are also eager [to trade].”
He acknowledged, however, that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had to reassure investors following the President’s tough anti-US and EU remarks.
“This pivot to China does not mean that we will forget the west. To understand the President, you have to understand that he wants what’s good for the Filipino people. Investment is good for the Philippines because it creates jobs, so definitely he won’t scare away investors from the US or EU or even China,” he said.
Death penalty is a long shot
Lopez also reiterated the government’s stance that so far, accusations linking the government to extrajudicial killings have not been proven.
“Our appeal to them is please don’t jump to conclusions basing it on some newspaper reports out there. If you want (to do that) you have to conduct your own investigation,” he said.
On the death penalty, Lopez noted that the law has not been passed anyway. “I’m sure there will still be a lot of legal challenges to it and for all we know it could take 10 years before it even comes into effect," Lopez said.
“It's so difficult for them [EU] just to remove [the GS+] based on something that isn’t yet happening,” he added.
Good numbers
Despite this, Lopez is happy with what he's seeing on the trade front. "We’re looking at the numbers and we don’t know where the concern is coming from,” the DTI chief said.
Lopez said the administration has opened new doors in the region’s new giant, China, adding in particular that a $1.7 billion trade purchase agreement had just been signed on the day of his Rappler interview.
“It's like a purchase order coming from different [Chinese] firms and that’s only because the Chinese market has really opened up to Philippine products and that’s because of the tremendous goodwill generated by President Duterte when he visited China,” he explained.
This goes along with the additional billions of dollars in investments China has pledged to pour into the government’s infrastructure program.
That goodwill has boosted tourism, with tourist arrivals up 76.46% or 85,948 people in January this year, based on data from the Department of Tourism, according to Lopez.
The trade chief expressed confidence that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The administration is targeting 1 million Chinese tourist arrivals this year following the recent lifting of a travel advisory against the Philippines by the Chinese government.
This will benefit SMEs, as rentals, restaurants, agricultural products, and souvernis are all SME-oriented, the trade chief added.
“The challenge now is to build more hotel rooms and other infrastructure to accommodate that boom. But the government infra push is pulling that…We’re very bullish on tourism and trade,” Lopez said.
Balancing act
The DTI head pointed out that the county is in a good position to take advantage of the 600-million market in ASEAN. It's a market that could potentially expand to 3.5 billion with the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks that include both China and India.
“When you look the Philippines, about 75% of our exports enjoy Generalized System of Privileges GSP [with the US] while two thirds of our exports to the EU enjoy GSP+, which means that the tariff rates are 0 and therefore locating in the PH will give [investor] easier access for their projects,” Lopez said.
Beyond dealing with negative perceptions, the trade chief will also have to carefully balance maintaining industry competitiveness with improving the livelihood of individual workers.
The government’s centerpiece reform is the comprehensive tax reform, which is being debated in Congress and aims to lower income tax for the majority of the population as well as corporations.
Doing this will lower much-needed government revenue so the reform includes tapping more revenue-generating programs, one of which is raising excise tax on new vehicles.
But the measure is seen by auto manufacturers as potentially hampering the local auto industry.
This is a concern for trade as one of its main incentive programs, CARS, specifically targets the resurgence of the automotive industry in the country.
“We believe and fully support the tax reform program because that is really something that will correct the current structure. Reducing the income tax for both individuals and corporates will yield more net gain [for both] to be brought back either through investment, R&D or innovation,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that while there were initial concerns, the Department of Finance (DOF) has since adjusted auto tax brackets and they are now consistent with the DTI’s CARS program.
Lopez also pointed out that the new rates are progressive in the sense that the majority of the burden now falls on luxury cars which he believes won’t be drastically affected since buyers in that segment are not price sensitive.
“The bottom line is that for cheaper cars and especially for cars that will be produced here, there will be minimal change in the effective tax rate and price rate… many of the higher-end cars are not manufactured here anyway so it’s not creating employment,” he said.
Protecting workers and cost
The DTI has also been working out a scheme that will give workers more security by ending the much maligned ”endo” system while at the same time allowing firms to manage their costs.
“Our priority here is to still to improve the tenure of workers so what we are simply saying is that [the key] is in the business model. Instead of hiring regular in the principal company, hire regular in the contractor instead,” Lopez said.
The new plan involves contractor firms that serve the personnel needs of principal firms hiring regular employees and crucially, making them permanent.
This way, if the contractor ends a contract with a principal firm, it is then the contractor's responsibility to find another firm to place its workers in.
This is important, Lopez noted, because what usually happens is that workers are let go once a contract ends between a contractor and a principal firm.
The new scheme will also include a grace period of around 3 months before the workers can be let go by contractors, but they will need to be let go with severance packages or retirement benefits.
“That is our stance and has to be in a department order (DO) issued by DOLE. The President simply remanded the DO to be reviewed further to give time for consultations with various stakeholders,” Lopez said. – Rappler.com


Tourism chief asks Robredo, media to 'tone down' statements on killings

BANGKOK, Thailand – Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo appealed to Vice President Leni Robredo and the media to "tone down" in its reporting of extrajudicial killings to make it easier for her to promote Philippine tourism.
"I have a great respect for VP (Vice President) Leni. Philippines is now becoming an alternate destination in Asia and Europe. Eh 'yung mga statements na ganoon, nahihirapan kami i-sell ang Philippines," said Teo on Wednesday, March 22.
(Statements like that make it hard for us to sell the Philippines.)
She was speaking at a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on the last day of President Rodrigo Duterte's official visit here.
"This does not only refer to VP Leni but also to media. Medyo i-tone down natin 'yung EJK (Let's tone down on statements on extrajudicial killings) because I'm always asked wherever I go, even in Asia and Europe, 'totoo ba ito?' (is this true?) and I would say it's safe in the Philippines and I would always ask them to come," she added.
Teo had been asked if Robredo's video message for a United Nations meeting, where she spoke of summary killings being linked to the drug war, has affected the country's tourism industry.
She said the effect can be seen in how tour operators from various countries have asked her if it's safe to travel to the Philippines.
Thus, Teo said it would help if media and officials like Robredo softened their statements on the summary killings of suspected drug personalities.
"I hope those statements can be toned down because we are having a hard time selling the Philippines. Just help us sell the Philippines," said Teo in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Tourism Secretary admitted, however, that there has actually been an increase in tourists travelling to the Philippines.
"Inspite of that, I still see that we have more tourists coming to the Philippines, especially in China, Europe, and Asia," she said.
The Duterte administration's drug war has so far been linked to the deaths of over 7,000 persons. Of this, some 2,500 are suspected drug personalities killed in police operations while 3,600 are victims in cases of "deaths under investigation."
The Philippine police says it has finished investigating the deaths of 922 individuals. – Rappler.com

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