Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 September 2018


A Reader (unnamed, Harvard, PhD graduate) emailed me three days ago: “You praised the Makati judiciary too soon. They are turning out to be the same kind of tutas as the quo warranto justices.

“For one whose case was already dismissed, Trillanes seems to be facing double jeopardy.”

To which I immediately replied: “Too true. I will apologize to the public in my next column.  But maybe the one in charge of the coup d’etat case will remain firm.”

He then shot back: “Let’s hope so.”

Amen. Let’s hope RTC Judge Andres Bartolome Soriano, Branch 148, is made of sterner stuff than his colleague Elmo Alameda of Branch 150. I had saluted them both in this column for standing up to the administration, but apparently Alameda’s knees buckled under pressure.

Because there had to be pressure (or incentives). How else can one explain, given the amount and quality of the evidence presented by Sen. Antonio Trillanes—videos taken by media of the event in Camp Aguinaldo of Trillanes signing the application for amnesty and submitting it to the ad hoc committee on amnesty; a copy of the application he signed, which by the way has a standard statement that the applicant acknowledges his guilt of the crimes committed; an affidavit from the ad hoc amnesty commission stating that indeed Trillanes had submitted his application to them. All these, and still Alameda was not convinced?

What is the old saying? “You cannot wake up a man who is not asleep,” or “there is none so blind as a man who does not wish to see.”

It seems the one document that would convince Alameda was something that Trillanes is incapable of producing: the original copy of his signed application. Why so? Because Trillanes submitted it to the ad hoc committee (video, affidavit and a duplicate copy as proof), and therefore it is in the hands of the defense/military establishment. Who conveniently (for them) cannot find it.

Notice: The defense/military people do not come out and say categorically that Trillanes did not sign the application. They only say they cannot find the document. But, apparently, that is enough for President Duterte to void an amnesty granted by his predecessor. Which, by the way, has the effect of making any future amnesty in the Philippines useless, for who will believe it?

And why issue a warrant for Trillanes’ arrest? What was the basis? Trillanes had presented more than sufficient evidence to show that the amnesty granted to him was not void. So, at the very least, Alameda should have asked the Department of Justice to show more evidence  supporting their claim. Instead, he gave in to them and took it out on Trillanes. Unbelievable.  What do they call it? Grave abuse of discretion?

And while we’re asking questions, let’s ask a real doozie: Any amnesty in the Philippines granted by the President has to be concurred in by the legislature—both houses of Congress. The leaders of those houses then, Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, are both alive and kicking. Why are they so silent on the issue? Did they really allow a “void ab initio” amnesty to get past them? If so, what does this say about their abilities and integrity, as well as those of the current members of this Congress who were members then?

And while we are on the topic of our Congress, I move to another issue concerning them: the issue of TRAIN 2 or the “Trabaho” bill. The second tax reform package was supposed to be revenue-neutral—that is, it would neither add nor subtract from the revenues of government. But its main element is the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) reduction, which means government revenue will be reduced. What other element would add to government revenue so that the net effect is zero change?

The Department of Finance (DOF) thought it had the answer: the rationalization of fiscal incentives. Did you know there are about 14 investment promotion agencies in the country, all giving out goodies to businesses? Well, the DOF’s proposal was to reduce CIT, conditional upon the savings from any rationalized incentives.

But the measure coming out of our House of Representatives and now being studied in the Senate is that only CIT would be reduced, while the fiscal incentives would remain.

Does that make our legislators stupid? Maybe. But like foxes. More about this next week.