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Black Nazarene matters

Respect is one word they should learn particularly with the religious Pinoys. Activism has no place inside the church. It is sacrilege.

Manny Angeles

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There’s a whale of a difference in the silent protests staged by militants inside Quiapo church and the NBA players at the Orlando bubble in Florida in the runup to the last weekend.

While both were meant to dramatize their demands for something they believe in, they differ in the venue which they chose to stage them.

The NBA was relaunching its coronavirus-hit season at the Disney World resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, with players showing their indignation over the death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a policeman, by kneeling in unison during the playing of the United States national anthem before the resumption of games.

Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter,” the players were using the NBA restart as their way of showing disgust over racism and police brutality, two social justice issues which caught fire following the death of Floyd.

Akbayan members, on the other hand, flashed protest placards against the anti-terror law during a SoNA (State of the Nation Address) Mass for Peace and Justice at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene while a service was ongoing.

The NBA players’ unique silent protest drew praise from fans and viewers alike. The Akbayan militants’ activism right inside a church, however, drew flak from netizens and Church officials who condemned their choice of venue.

A priest remarked that the Mass and the church are not the place for partisan, ideological posturing.

“People gather to pray, and to gain respite from the divisiveness outside, and these people slither into churches, seize the opportunity of a congregation of people and hijack religious services for their purposes,” he said.

A video that went viral on social media showed two police officers confiscating a bag and some protest placards from an Akbayan member attending Mass.

Another photo made rounds showing the same man and his companion flashing “anti-terror law” placards inside the church.

Netizens were upset over the incident, pointing out that a place of worship and prayers is not the right place for such a protest.

“Those carrying the placards are wrong. Obviously, they have an intention when they flashed their propaganda materials inside the church. They were the ones who did not respect the church, and maybe the police could no longer wait until the end of the Mass so they acted. The protest was an obstruction of the Mass,” a netizen said in a post in the vernacular.

Indeed, staging their protest action inside a church while a Mass was ongoing will not sit well with the predominantly Catholic Filipinos. For them it is a sign of disrespect for the venerated Black Nazarene.

Rev. Fr. Douglas Badong, Parochial Vicar of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, expressed his dismay over the incident.

Badong said the church was not the proper venue for such activism.

“It was not the correct venue to express and show those placards. Maybe the police just took the bag in that manner because these activists or rallyists refused to listen. The Mass is not the right time to give out flyers,” he said.
According to Badong, the activists could have staged their protest in Plaza Miranda or Plaza Carriedo, but not inside the church.

He said a true devotee knows what to do and how to respect activities inside a church. The way we see it, the rallyists just wanted to get the attention of people.

No matter how they would like to justify their act, however, the militants ought to know better. Respect is one word they should learn particularly with the religious Pinoys. Activism has no place inside the church. It is sacrilege.

Or maybe, like the movement that NBA players are in solidarity with, these local militants should remember that for Pinoy devotees, the Black Nazarene matters.

Email: [email protected]

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Commentary

Vicious pest

Now that the campaign against the blight is producing favorable results, here comes Robredo again, firing away on cue as if somebody unleashed her from her collar.

TEB

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“The yellows, never believe them, all they are capable of are lies” was President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning that went with the caution he issued about becoming reckless amid the continuing threat from the coronavirus disease.

While health protocols are being loosened, the President said citizens, particularly in Metro Manila, should maintain their vigilance against infection.

Mr. Duterte, however, said he understands the public’s yearning to resume normal life if not for the obvious partisan potshots from Vice President Leni Robredo.

The grumblings of Robredo were obviously timed for the marking of the 48th anniversary of the martial law declaration and were intended for the public to make a comparison between the administrations of Mr. Duterte and former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Of course, Robredo’s hold to her current post is tenuous, since her mandate has been questionable from the start, as allegations of Liberal Party-induced automated rigging of the 2016 polls hounded her.

In a self-serving statement, she said the public should “push back against the lies” of those associated with the Marcos dictatorship, warning that failing to do so would leave Filipinos “divided and vulnerable to abuse.”

In her obscure radio program, Robredo also noted that the administration had been flip-flopping on the campaign against the coronavirus disease.

Robredo advised the President to do more in containing the disease, citing the need for “medical and non-medical” solutions, which means nothing in itself.

Moreover, the VP took seriously Mr. Duterte’s sarcastic remark about spraying Metro Manila with pesticide in response to her broadsides.

Her response was purely idiotic, stressing the President’s proposal will not be the solution to the health crisis.

In trying to take political advantage of the President’s statement, Robredo came out as a halfwit.

Somebody may have to point out to the VP that Mr. Duterte’s statement was made out of exasperation over her useless diatribes.

Instead of nitpicking the President, which is a feat which sums up her achievements thus far, Robredo should go out and do something worthwhile for the government which pays for her upkeep.

Mr. Duterte had reached out to her and considered the VP’s counsel when he believed that she’s sober from bouts of too much politicking.

Robredo was even given the role of anti-narcotics czarina, but promptly blew her chance after running to her foreign patrons, bringing along sensitive documents that compromised the war on drugs when it was almost won.

Drug syndicates, instead, got a reprieve from the hiatus as a result of the commotion Robredo created.

Now that the war on drugs is back on track, the allegation of summary executions and the like from the VP and her foreign allies is back.

Suggestions are rife about drug cartels having an indecent alliance with those seeking to oust Mr. Duterte and install Robredo in his stead.

Now that the campaign against the blight is producing favorable results, here comes Robredo again, firing away on cue as if somebody unleashed her from her collar.

Mr. Duterte’s mention of insecticide was obviously meant for Robredo to shoo the irrelevant vicious pest (VP) away.

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Commentary

Rule of law, not martial law

There is no such thing as a reshaping of history. What is actually transpiring is that the cold judgment of time had actually caught up with the made-up existence of the muckrakers.

Concept News Central

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s irrepressible critics are at it again, claiming that a de facto martial law is in existence as a result of the community quarantine period using the ridiculous proof that retired generals are running the show in the anti-coronavirus campaign.

The yarn has been rolled out in time for the marking of the martial law declaration last Monday to generate relevance where there is none.

A fully functioning government with three independent branches and the frequent clashes that the President never interfered in, except in cases where the Executive is involved, do not support the authoritarian bias being leveled on the Chief Executive.

In many instances, Mr. Duterte failed to get what he wished for in Congress and the Supreme Court. This often ends up with the President resorting to his patented rant.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who experienced the Marcos martial law said the situation under the Duterte administration is different from the 1972 military rule.

“I grew up under martial law, then took up law school under a government which only had a Constitution, as Congress and the Supreme Court were all shut down,” he said.

Roque instead said that like him most Filipinos have “learned the lessons of martial law,” which was what happened when the interim military rule was imposed on Mindanao in the aftermath of the Marawi City siege of 2017.

Contrary to what the detractors have been conjuring, the Mindanao martial law frustrated those shouting of authoritarian rule, since residents clamored for its extension even as the President sought its immediate lifting.

What appears to be the beef of the inconsolable foes in the red and yellow bands of the political spectrum is the incessant howling of press freedom violations from Rappler founder Maria Ressa, since she faces a string of cases involving breach of the anti-dummy law and a private person’s complaint of cyber libel, in which both are out of the President’s hands.

Ressa, however, is winning big by constantly putting pressure on Mr. Duterte by collecting accolades and awards from liberal democratic groups and their allies. She even landed on the cover of TIME magazine as a “Guardian in the War on Truth.”

To the communists and the liberals, Mr. Duterte’s term is a reign of gross abuses on human rights, yet those who are shouting the loudest are enjoying such rights to the fullest.

Filipinos, nonetheless, continue to see a leader who is making the best out of what he has, to provide them with the best possible comfort.

There is also what is being labeled as the weaponization of the law against Ressa, which can be interpreted as something good, since the opponents of Mr. Duterte believe that they are entitled to dictating on the people the type of governance they should enjoy.

Vice President Leni Robredo, the symbolic head of the yellows, kept on with her chatter about the yellow byword “revisionism,” which she claims is being cultivated under the current dispensation.

There is no such thing as a reshaping of history. What is actually transpiring is that the cold judgment of time had actually caught up with the made-up existence of the muckrakers.

Revisionism is altering the true lessons of history, which is what exactly the yellow mob and the red rebels are trying to foster on Filipinos, whose political maturity had resulted to the rejection of the critics’ stale shibboleths.

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Commentary

Distance learning hurdles

In nationwide poll surveys, the region tops the most number of component provinces occupying the highest rung in the poverty index. The problem is amplified in its remote areas.

Macabangkit B. Lanto

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My grandchildren were restless for three days. There has been no Internet signal in our area, and their mother was venting her irritation on them. The “personal hotspot” on our cellular phones was not strong enough to generate sufficient signal. Every morning, they observe their rote of a bath, change into clean clothes and prepare to face their teacher through the Internet. They complain about missing their allowance now that their bedroom has become their classroom. They sorely miss the laugh, banter and play with their classmates after classes.

This narrative is just one of the hurdles in distance learning. The pandemic has forced the Department of Education (DepEd) to adopt unconventional methods to help stave off its growing menace. The scare had educational authorities thinking about the use of computer technology as a method of instruction. Although the mode has long been tested and practiced successfully in advanced graduate and post-graduate studies, it was never applied in the lower level of education — primary, secondary and tertiary.

The shift from traditional classroom and blackboard style of learning to video chatroom or virtual learning is easier said than done. There are intrinsic problems, especially in the countryside, which government will be hard-pressed to address. And government seems to be flip-flopping when to open classes for public schools. Early on, the Secretary of Education announced it would open last month, August, only to move it to a later date allegedly to make more preparations.

The problem occasionally experienced by my grandchildren over Internet glitches and bugs is a microcosm of the situation prevailing outside Metro Manila on Internet learning. We read of heartrending reports of students doing online learning in a Tarzan-like treehouse or at an elevated open space where Internet signal on their smartphone is strong. This search for a good spot for Internet signal becomes a problem in a geographically depressed low area where there is hardly any connectivity. And it gets worse in areas where poverty is prevalent and without electric power.

The DepEd should devise a teaching method prepared specially for those areas. In fact, it should be flexible to allow traditional in-person teaching in remote areas where there are no reported cases of COVID-19. This should apply likewise in areas where the signal is often weak, intermittent and with not enough power to connect to the Internet. A hybrid of online and in-person learning is practicable to address the dilemma.

There could be a disconnect between teachers and students on digital learning where there is hardly a show of personal emotions and intimate interactions between them. The focus of students is disrupted by the fact that they are facing a screen instead of their teachers, whose personal presence contributes very much in the effectiveness of teaching and learning process. The students are deprived of reacting promptly to the teacher’s lecture and discussing the lessons during breaktime.

Topping these problems is the poverty of those in the margins of society. The parents are more concerned with finding food on the table than buying a computer, smartphone, tablet and laptop and other gadgets. Government will have to spend a fortune to fill this void.

It will be a tough job for authorities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In nationwide poll surveys, the region tops the most number of component provinces occupying the highest rung in the poverty index. The problem is amplified in its remote areas. Many have yet to experience electricity, which is a must in digital learning. And even with electric power, both students and teachers will have to undergo training on the intricacies of computer technology, a skill they sorely lack or are not adept with.

The net result of these problems is the dramatic decrease in enrollment in both private and public schools. It will set back the government’s campaign to provide basic and quality education to Filipinos.

Email: [email protected]

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Commentary

Men without honor

There is no need for Velasco to steal the post from Cayetano, though, if only the incumbent House leader will honor his word.

Aldrin Cardona

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’Twas all about pork barrel — those words, anew.

That congressmen were again wrangling not really after change but the restoration of their pork should no longer surprise us. It’s their normal. Not new, just abominably normal.

What wasn’t normal was some lawmakers’ allegations that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano got the lion’s share of the pork from next year’s national budget while the rest would not have much.
How much is much? We could not tell.

But several congressmen are leaking documents every day to prove Cayetano is assured of projects tucked into the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) 2021 funds.

Their figures vary. Some say Cayetano and just a few of his trusted allies are getting more or less P20 billion-worth of projects.

Daily Tribune was provided with a list of projects in the Cayetanos’ Taguig City.

It listed 121 projects costing the DPWH P9,762,773,000. It’s not even half of the P20 billion the others have claimed Cayetano is assured of, but their message was clear: The Speaker’s got more than the rest.

Cayetano splits Taguig City’s two congressional districts with his wife Lani, the former mayor. How they did it still baffles the mind, but they did it.

The Speaker is also the caretaker of Camarines Sur’s first district. Its elected representative to Congress, Marissa Lourdes Andaya, succumbed to cancer early this year. He has a separate line in funding for projects in that district.

The Second district is represented by Cayetano ally LRay Villafuerte, who at the start of the week tried to appease the other congressmen by offering them some soft projects through the Local Government Subsidy Fund in the name of Cayetano.

Villafuerte, some lawmakers say, is also getting a large chunk from the DPWH’s 2021 fund.

Of the five Camarines Sur representatives, it was only the third district’s Gabriel “Gabby” Bordado Jr. who reportedly returned the allocations for his area. It was worth a “measly” P1,127,591,000.
“Measly,” that was how many congressmen describe their shares. Many of them are getting P2 billion, still more will receive less.

The year 2021, however, is regarded as an “election budget year.” It was confirmed no less by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, a veteran of many political wars.

He had shared the senators’ fear that the national budget will again be hijacked for a different purpose.

“Ugly,” Senator Panfilo Lacson, who made it his advocacy to red-flag certain entries in the national budget he finds questionable, described it.

Cayetano’s camp tried to mask the squabble over money as “yet another attempt” by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to snatch the speakership.

There is no need for Velasco to steal the post from Cayetano, though, if only the incumbent House leader will honor his word.

But no, many of our lawmakers are not men of honor.

We’d easily know. Just throw money in their way and they’ll hussle each other to snatch it.

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Commentary

Diary of Mediatrix visionary Sr. Teresing

With her pain so severe, she fainted. She woke up the next day with all her scars from her past operations gone. She felt well and healed completely.

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The late Sister Teresing Castillo, the visionary of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, wrote two diaries. The first diary was destroyed. This is the second one, typewritten by her a few years before she passed away. Because the original diary is lengthy and hazy, important excerpts are discussed here.

This diary is the only known existing first-hand evidence of the apparitions of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, a name she told Sr. Teresing Castillo to be her title. Just like Sr. Lucia of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin appeared many times to Sr. Teresing, proclaiming her messages to the world.

Diary excerpt 1 — Tormented by the devil. 11 August 1948.

“At around 3 a.m., I was awakened by the shaking of my bed which lasted about one minute or so. He (the devil) also told me that I was wrong in loving and respecting the bishop and Mother Cecilia. He was terribly ugly. He hit me and the marks (were) seen by Mother Prioress. His foul odor convinced me that he was something totally evil. With God’s grace, I was determined to win the battle. He disappeared after being sprinkled by me with holy water as I have been told to do by Mother Prioress.”

(Note. The devil knew how important Our Lady Mediatrix was in the Church’s evangelical effort in Asia, especially in the “conversion” of China (“conversion” not religiously, but in the change of heart towards peace)

In the devil’s panic, he instilled total fear on Sr. Teresing to prevent her from receiving the messages of Our Lady. But the Virgin prevailed.

Diary excerpt 2 — The healing rose petal, 20 August 1948.

“I was in our cell, fixing our bed, when I heard a sound similar to that of a bird flapping its wings. When I looked up, I noticed a strong, sweet smell and I saw petals falling from nowhere because there was no hole in the ceiling. When the petals reached the floor, they formed into a cross, so I said to myself: ‘O my Jesus, what is happening to me now?’ Mother Prioress gathered the petals and brought them with her.”

1 September 1948.

I was led back to our cell. I smelt a sweet fragrance again and immediately guessed that Mama Mary was in our cell. Yes, she was! Although I was blind, she told me to gather all the petals on our bed. I did. Before she left the cell, I begged her on bended knees to please allow me to kiss her feet. Much to my surprise, she consented. I could hardly believe, but it is really very true. I felt I couldn’t do it, because I felt so unworthy. But I did it: My feeling was beyond description.”

(Note. Sr. Teresing wrote about rose petals, which is a preview to the Miracle of Rose Petals, explained in the book Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, by Rene de Jesus (available at the Carmelite Convent in Lipa). The rose petals bore religious images, such as the Holy Trinity, Our Lady of Fatima, etc. There were people healed by the petals.)

Book excerpt. (Pages 152 to 153).

“Dear Julie (Hughes-Sikora, Filipino married to an American), I was cured by your rose petals. I want you to know that it had performed a miracle on me. I was cured of my cancer. Please come and see me when you get to Chicago. Sr. Mary Angela.”

“Sr. Mary Angela recounted that, when the rose petal was brought to her (by Julie), she was dying of bladder cancer, and a coffin was already on standby. (She was) alone in her room with the petal, praying. The Blessed Mother in her white veil dress and veil ‘came out’ of the rose petal and stood floating on a cloud before her. The Blessed Mother smiled at her. With her pain so severe, she fainted. She woke up the next day with all her scars from her past operations gone. She felt well and healed completely.”

(Note. Julie got the “healing rose petal” at the Mediatrix shrine in Lipa. A strong wind blew a shower of petals, and she picked up one. She eventually surrendered the petal to the Carmelite Sisters in Lipa after it healed Angela.)

For details on past articles about Our Lady Mediatrix, visit the following articles in Daily Tribune: “Mediatrix image sheds tears in Lipa (1),” 12 August 2020, and “The ‘conversion’ of China (2),” 16 August 2020.

Email the author for a free download of the original diary of Sr. Teresing.

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Business

Travel in the time of COVID-19

Incheon Airport was nearly empty so distancing was visible, and I trusted that the Korean virus prevention guidelines would be strictly imposed.

Bing Matoto

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Dear readers,
I give way to my daughter who shares with you her family’s recent travels in the time of COVID-19.

Travel in the time of COVID-19
By Priscilla Anne Matoto-Sznaper
While most people probably prudently opted to stay put for the summer, my family and I took a leap in the dark and did the opposite. We used the home leave to return to the south of France and spent two weeks feeling that life was back to normal despite needing protective masks and proper hand hygiene. How could we have embraced this return to normal social life in a country whose daily confirmed cases was estimated at 1,500 in early August, as compared to the 20 cases of South Korea, our country of residence?

The biggest hurdle was the voyage involving airports and the exposure to fellow travelers coming from all parts of the world. As you might expect, we were complete with protective gear: extra masks, antibacterial wipes, alcohol spray, face shields, goggles and impermeable jackets. Did we use everything? Yes and no. Incheon Airport was nearly empty so distancing was visible, and I trusted that the Korean virus prevention guidelines would be strictly imposed. Our fears were on hold for the time being as we saved the face shields for CDG Paris airport, where a whole new ballgame awaited.

Onboard Korean Air, this 11-hour journey only had 90 passengers, giving each of us access to a row of seats — for me, the only upside of traveling at the time of a pandemic. When my giddy 5-year-old caught sight of the Eiffel Tower from her window, I was on vigilant mode knowing that CDG airport would be unlike Incheon.

The terminal where we were directed had no thermal cameras, traditional temperature checking nor medical questionnaires, simply mask-wearers (many of whom had their noses exposed), making it a perfect scene from a dystopian nightmare of the KCDC (Korea Centers for Disease Control). Since July, much to our relief, the French government had just made mask-wearing compulsory in all enclosed public spaces, but how serious was this mandate being followed? Several passengers onboard our domestic flight to Cannes had non-mask wearers or masks worn incorrectly, leading to several airplane announcements and reproaches from the flight attendants. Thankfully, the flight ended on a good note with the exit of passengers being done in batches to avoid overcrowding. Relieved that we were a step away from our destination, our last mode of transport was the taxi. The driver was maybe too considerate, inviting us to remove our masks inside his air-conditioned vehicle. While taking off his own mask, he said reassuringly that there was distance between us anyhow. Again, another no-no in South Korea.

Elle est belle la France (France is beautiful), and indeed she still was even amid COVID. The relaxed vibe in the south of France was the escape that I did not know I needed after months of ineffable pain and anxiety caused by the pandemic. From the outside, this resort town along the French Riviera looked as if life had returned to normal with the exception of masks and hand sanitizers showing the only traces of change. Cannes is driven by tourism and annual international events, such as the Cannes Film Festival. And with a pandemic like COVID leaving world economies at a major loss — France forecasts a $40 billion decline in revenues in the tourism sector for 2020 — it is no wonder that cities like Cannes are actively trying to reverse the crisis with boosted on-the-ground marketing initiatives and events.

This rapid return to “normalization” was evident. The beaches were packed with unmasked sunbathers and families. (Side note: We attracted many stares with our masks during our first visit to the beach) Several events were held at beachfront hotels like the Majestic. The popular children’s sailing classes — which we were too frightened to pursue this year — were visibly ongoing. Parking lots were reaching full capacity. There were the ubiquitous daily outdoor markets showcasing Provençal delicacies to antique treasures teeming with crowds. Rue d’Antibes, a shopping street, was congested all throughout the day. The queues in bakeries were long and the outdoor evening dining scene was bustling. With a nationwide estimate as of August of 1,500 daily cases, mask-wearing was only compulsory in enclosed spaces, allowing people to step outside unmasked, whereas in South Korea, it is unacceptable. However, as of this writing, the spike of cases reaching 13,500 is suddenly painting a different picture in France. Currently, in Marseille, public gatherings exceeding 10 people in parks and beaches are restricted, and an alcohol ban has been imposed starting 8 p.m. France 24 TV channel reported that even with a nationwide rise in cases, the French Prime Minister’s goal is to “avoid a general lockdown and succeed in living with the virus through social distancing, mask-wearing and ramped-up testing.” Sadly, this road to normalization, “in living with the virus,” comes at the expense of risking thousands of lives on a daily basis, and it brings me to vehemently question if this non-rigid approach is and (has been) really worth embracing.

Speaking of rigid, our flight to Seoul was empty, giving us some down time before a four-hour rigorous COVID control at the airport — health forms to fill up, interviews with quarantine officers, temperature checks, downloading of a mobile tracing application — including designated taxis for travelers under quarantine. We each got tested, quarantined for 14 days, reported our daily self-diagnosis checks, and had a surprise inspection from a government officer. Believe it or not, even our trash remained quarantined (and frozen) with us. With utmost gratitude, Annyeonghaseyo, South Korea!
Until next week… One big fight!

For comments, email [email protected]

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Opinion

Taxing FB, streamers

The social media platforms’ political influence can also be abused and manipulated via posts that escape vetting and policing. Spreading propaganda through them is very much alive.

Paolo Capino

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This may be an unpopular opinion but Facebook, Twitter, Google, and entertainment streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon, and iFlix should be taxed by the Philippine government.

I believe there is now a significant number of households with multiple subscriptions to streaming services, thus the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) should conduct a technical study on how the government can generate revenues from them.

While offering services for free, Facebook, Twitter and Google profit immensely from companies that advertise in their platforms to take advantage of their respective systems and algorithms to also generate profit.

The social media platforms’ political influence can also be abused and manipulated via posts that escape vetting and policing. Spreading propaganda through them is very much alive.

As they resolve flawed internal policies and programs, taxing Facebook and other social media platforms in the Philippines would be reparation for all the damage they are inflicting on our country’s democracy.

Google’s YouTube has allowed the proliferation of influencers without being transparent on how much these individuals earn from their own channels.

The BIR should, therefore, create a digital team that would look into the economic ecology of influencers and how collaborations and connections can create more wealth not only to users but to Google as well. The government should have a slice of that pie to distribute to people who are socially immobile due to the pandemic.

TikTok should not be exempted from taxation as localized advertisements are now being run on the world’s biggest social media platform. It is only a matter of time before Tiktok influencers generate enough financial incentives while escaping paying the government its due.

Digital taxation is a novel concept, but it is essential because revenue sources are limited and businesses are not operating as they used to prior to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Tech capitalists, meanwhile, are using freedom of speech to escape paying taxes and being held accountable for whatever fake news, propaganda or hate views are expressed through them.

The Philippines is the world’s social media capital despite its relatively slower Internet. Statista.com estimates users from our country will reach 90 million by 2025.

If the BIR ignores the potential revenue that the government can use to help poor Filipinos, it will pressure more local entrepreneurs to cough up more money and may result in multiple bankruptcies.

We must hold digital companies based outside the Philippines accountable financially and for them to really crack down on their allowing the spread of hatred and fake news.

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Commentary

How low can they go?

Even then, people knew it would be a temporary peace. The boys would come out to play one day, and it seems we are seeing the game once more.

Dinah S. Ventura

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Senator Ping Lacson calls it “ugly,” this squabble at the House of Representatives over, of course, money. Not just any amount, but mind-boggling figures.

Who knew there were billions of pesos at hand but which COVID-affected Filipinos cannot use?

Just the thought of shelling out P5,000 weighs so heavily on a worker who has to get a swab test to keep working, but can’t afford it.

And here are our congressmen, heaven help them, warring over enough amounts of money one cannot ever spend in a lifetime.

Perhaps another word to use is “despicable,” this behavior being so blatantly displayed by some of the (dis)respectable leaders of our land.

And “shock” is no longer something that applies to how people feel about this… utter depravity.

Disgust?

Too tame — as tame as the word “bickering” that is being used to refer to the ongoing word wars.

One supposes such skirmishes are nothing new in the halls of power. We note, too, that these days, there are no longer such things as “word of honor” and “gentleman’s agreement.”

There is only one-upmanship and scheming — and a despairing lack of integrity (not to mention class).

We are desperate to believe we are wrong.

We would like to hear President Rodrigo Duterte releasing some of those famous blistering remarks whenever someone angers him.

Lately, he was fuming at Vice President Leni Robredo for commenting, in an interview, on the “lack of system” in the government’s way of addressing the pandemic.

Can Mr. Duterte be angry this time at golden boy Alan Peter Cayetano and all the rest of “them representatives” who are fighting over funds and potentially delaying the passage of the 2021 budget?

It all began when Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. questioned infrastructure funds supposedly allotted between congressional districts, particularly those of House Speaker Cayetano (Taguig City) and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur).

According to Teves, P11.8 billion of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ proposed 2021 budget is for Cam Sur’s infrastructure projects, while P8 billion would go to Taguig.

An incensed Villafuerte claimed it was “hearsay,” then brought in the issue of the speakership row into the argument, saying “Teves’ questioning reveals a supposed plan hatched by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco’s camp to disturb the current leadership’s track to pass the 2021 national budget ahead of time,” as a news report goes.

Other congressmen joined the fray, infusing our pandemic-induced peace with disquiet. Is this what we are living for, we muse — a world led by such men?

With Solomonic wisdom, President Duterte had brokered a term-sharing deal in which Cayetano would serve as House Speaker for 15 months before Velasco replaces him and lead Congress for the remaining 21 months.

Even then, people knew it would be a temporary peace. The boys would come out to play one day, and it seems we are seeing the game once more.

Senate President Vicente Sotto says the Chief Executive will likely not interfere this time “unless his perspective is sought.”

Well, this corner is mighty curious about what he thinks at this point. How low can the House go in this time of the pandemic?

The game isn’t over until it’s all over, Mr. President.

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Commentary

Keep RoW clear

Vigilance is needed to prevent the 2021 budget meant for Filipinos to survive and recover from the pandemic from falling into the wrong pockets.

TDT

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Some P27.4 billion for right-of-way (RoW) acquisitions that are provided under the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act should be placed under close public watch due to the percolating leadership imbroglio at the House of Representatives.

The fate of the funds may be tied up on who sits in the House leadership during the remaining period of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, since it is among the usual source of funds for political leverage.

Members of the House of Representatives are keeping their eyes on the huge amount which is a favorite source of kickbacks.

Under the law, the national government acquires private real property needed for its projects through donation, negotiated sale, expropriation, or any other mode.

Section 9 of the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution forbids the taking of private property for public use without just compensation.

In a Senate probe last year, it was found that P2.8 billion spurious RoW claims over the years were traced as having taken root during the previous regime.

The anomaly made it difficult for the government to carry out a tax mapping of real estate properties, which was the ideal setup for the scammers in government.

Probed were P2.8 billion in RoW claims covering a four-lane, 33-kilometer road in General Santos City in 2013.

That was when senators believed the pocketing of funds started. In 2018, the RoW budget allotted for the Department of Public Works and Highways was pegged at P18 billion, P6 billion of which was set aside for 167 RoW settlements in General Santos City alone.

The name of international fraudster Nelson Ti, said to be a close friend of former President Noynoy Aquino’s brother-in-law Eldon Cruz, surfaced as among the leaders of the syndicate tagged in the scandal.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, in a report, identified Ti as the financier of the syndicate headed by Wilma Mamburam and Evelyn Paloso.

Ti is the subject of an arrest warrant issued by Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 59 for estafa and faces prosecution in the United States for conspiracy to defraud the US, but he remains at large.

Three counts of false statements, three counts of mail fraud, six counts of money laundering and obstruction of proceeding before a US agency have also been filed against Ti.

“The syndicate was successful in perpetuating its crime because of a massive breakdown in the law,” the committee report stated.

With the rush of government projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program, the RoW is critical since private property owners will not readily give up their real estate without a satisfactory compensation.

Such reality is, however, exploited by the syndicates, assisted by corrupt government officials to siphon off public funds.

In the General Santos City scandal, for instance, it was found that huge amounts were funneled to empty lots, which were made to appear to have been acquired through RoW.

A thorough check of the budget is needed to prevent the greedy claws of some public officials to again exploit the current situation for their agenda, particularly as bickering over the budget allocations has started.

Similar to avoiding the coronavirus, vigilance is needed to prevent the 2021 budget meant for Filipinos to survive and recover from the pandemic from falling into the wrong pockets.

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