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Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Week in Review

A busy schedule (what else is new?) kept me from writing about anything the past week, although there were a number of interesting issues that occurred. Here's a quick look at each of them:

Updates on the Cybercrime Law

The Supreme Court issued a 120-day temporary restraining order on the implementation of Republic Act (R.A.) 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act. This should allow lawmakers to revise or amend the law, especially on its provisions on libel and the so-called "take-down" provision, which would allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block websites simply on the suspicion that they are involved in cybercrime. Our legislators can also probably take a look at the libel provisions in the Revised Penal Code, which have been criticized by journalists and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

The Cybercrime Law is an example of the apparent sloppiness of our government in crafting laws, as both the legislative and executive arms let the law pass, even though it became clear that there were infirmities in its provisions. Hopefully, it will spur our officials to be more careful about creating laws.

Peace Pact in Mindanao

I've not really kept up with the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but the signing of a preliminary agreement between the two sides is a welcome development. The agreement apparently calls for the creation of a new Bangsamoro autonomous body, which raises the question of what will happen to the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which has, sadly, not been able to alleviate the problems in Mindanao.

 Sin Tax Brouhaha

Senator Ralph Recto, the chair of the Senate ways and means committee, is in hot water over his proposed "sin tax" bill. Senator Recto's version aims to raise 15-20 billion pesos, which is a far cry from the estimated 60 billion pesos in the version proposed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and supported by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Department of Health (DOH). Senator Recto was lambasted by health advocates, and suspicions were voiced that the Senator had caved in to the lobbying by the tobacco and alcohol industries.

I'm neither a smoker or a drinker, so I'm not too well-read on the issue, but, from what I understand, the sin taxes will impose heavy levies on the sale of tobacco and alcohol products, which, in a country where both are vices in which Filipinos engage, could make it difficult for the ordinary Filipino. Still, the sin tax is a measure to help curb such addiction. For me, if it will help cut down on drunken rages commonly reported in the news, I'm all for it.

 Varsitarian Uproar

Netizens, especially those from Ateneo and La Salle, were outraged when the official UST publication, the Varistarian, came out with a scathing, insulting editorial slamming both schools for having allowed their professors to take a stand for the RH Bill, which the Catholic Churtch opposes. The editorial was not scored for its stance against the RH bill, but, rather, for the very strong language it used in its condemnation of both schools; for instance, it scored the professors as being "intellectual pretenders and interlopers! (sic)" It called for the professors to resign from the school, if they persisted in their stance on the RH bill.

It's not the first time the Varsitarian came out with such an editorial, as it issued a similar-sounding statement in 2008, when the Ateneo professors first came out with their statement on the RH bill. However, since social media was still in its infancy then, it wasn't given as much attention as the current editorial.

What is disappointing about the Varsitarian editorial is that it appears the writer/s would rather engage in name-calling and fallacious arguments than tackle the issue from an objective and rational stance. Along with the actions of serial plagiarist Senator Tito Sotto, the Varsitarian does not adequately represent the anti-RH bill side.


Dino said...

Hi again sir!


Peace Pact in Mindanao

Once finalized, the Bangsamoro region will replace the ARMM and include some other places as well. I haven't read much about the other differences between the Bangsamoro and the ARMM so for now, all I can say is it's indeed a welcome development and I hope the Bangsamoro doesn't end up like the ARMM (and there should be no more breakaway groups this time).

Also, though more powerful and more autonomous than the ARMM, I hope the Bangsamoro doesn't become an implicit independent state that will only serve its own interest or that of Malaysia's like what some critics claim.

Dino said...

Sin Taxes

In general, I like consumption taxes on non-essential goods and luxuries instead of too much of income taxes and taxes on the so-called "inferior goods" and goods needed by the poor. Too much income taxes sort of penalizes the hardworking people and too much taxes on inferior goods are a no-no for obvious reasons.

Cigarettes and alcohol are definitely non-essential goods. Sometimes I do wonder why a certain segment of the poor can afford alcohol but remain hungry. (In the case of cigarettes, they're quite cheap, but I'm not sure with alcohol). So by all means, they can increase the taxes.

At the same time, I think the government needs to be careful with this. If it taxes too much, many people will stop smoking/drinking, which means the industry just gets killed, and which means no useful amount of taxes are collected, which then defeats the purpose of the bill.

This is why it's always a good idea to have a reasonable mix of income and consumption taxes (or the VAT). Another idea would be to heavily tax industries that damage the environment, such as mining.

Dino said...

Speaking of mining, as much as we all hate the damage it causes, it's still an essential industry for creating practically everything we use - phones, computers, transporation, houses (or even just the hammer we use in our houses). This is also another hot economic/environmental issue lately we can expound on another time, and if you have time you could probably write on it as well.

By the way, I remember reading on your blog about your take on the 2008 US elections and now it's a little under three weeks away from the 2012 version. How time flies eh? Looking forward to your take again (especially since I haven't done my own full reading yet).

So for now, 'ey sir, Obama again or Romney?

Some other interesting points: Obama or Romney, or do you wish it was someone else for one or both parties? Or is it time for the US to embrace a third party (if this happens, hopefully they don't a Philippine version of the multi-"party" system hehe)?

Frederick Tomas said...

Hi, Dino! It's been a while since I've seen your always-insightful comments on my blog.

Re: Obama-Romney. This year, it's really a toss-up between the two; both sides have valid points, and both sides have serious flaws. Personally, I'd like to give Obama another chance to get things right.

Re: Mining. I'm not too keen on writing about this, since there's already a lot of articles out there, and I think the issue has been extensively discussed.

Re: Bangsamoro. As it is, Nur Misuari and the MNLF are crying foul over the proposed area, since it means that the MNLF will lose the ARMM, which it helped to foster. At the same time, the ARMM is such a failed situation, so perhaps replacing it is the way to go.