Of Eggs and Chicken

Posted: October 21, 2008 in Bisag Unsa / Random Rants
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The Coalition of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Associations of Northern Mindanao is staying true to their word: NO BUSINESS TODAY.

Several businesses (the actual number of participants is uncertain; we will see today) will not open their stores to the consuming public today as a protest to the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) alleged harassment through “arbitrary and oppressive” tax assessments.

This is touted as a rare show of unity among business establishments in the city against the behemoth (caching!!!) government institution.

What will become of this protest remains to be seen. It has already reached the pages of a national daily and a local paper (but not in official city website).

Whenever I hear of complaints directed at the BIR (who doesn’t have complaints against the BIR anyway) I am reminded of the ‘egg-or-chicken’ question:

Businesses exist to provide the public goods and services at a price. Profit is essential. However, these establishments have to pay various taxes. They are very much aware of this.

The BIR has tax collection targets. We need taxes to fund government projects. These projects are meant for the public’s benefit.

During tax collection time, do businesses really fully pay the taxes that are due them? (Are they honest?)

Does the BIR really make accurate computations and fully turn over their collections? (Are they also honest?)

Let’s face it, the answer to both questions is ‘no’!

(Don’t get me wrong. There are honest taxpayers as there are honest revenue officials. Both are rare and facing imminent extinction.)

It is not plain greed. Often there is also a deeply-rooted distrust for the opposite party. Some taxpayers reason that their taxes never get to the right projects or people anyway, that sizable amounts end up in the wrong bank accounts. Some revenue officials argue that they are offered hefty gifts in exchange for some mathematical adjustments.

Consider Financial Disaster A:

Let’s say I want to be a fair and model citizen so I want to pay my taxes honestly,  that in spite the disheartening thought of widespread corruption, I want to be an agent for change. So come tax collection time, my accountant finds that I owe our government P100,000. I swallow hard and close my eyes with the thought of parting with my honestly- and hard-earned money. I’ll be lucky if I am assigned an equally honest tax agent; happy ending. But what if I get an unscrupulous kobrador, who offers me a 25% discount. I think that P25,000 can buy me a new shiny cellphone or can pay for some heavy car beautification. Or if I am elevated to my less worldly, more altruistic self, I can donate that small amount to a worthy cause. But I did write ‘unscrupulous’ collector, not one who shares my less wordly and more altrustic ideals, so there is a catch: I pay P75,000 and get a receipt for P50,000. Against my mother’s disapproval of swearing I exclaim: WTF! But I get a ‘25% discount’ smile in return. I threaten to report the incident. And as a result, I am rewarded with threats, harassment, and other inconveniences to my once peaceful existence. So come next collection time I:

  • continue fighting the system, a lonely one-man battle, for the remaining years of my existence, with extinction a guaranteed outcome.
  • tell the next tax guy: “My standard rate is 25%; take it or leave it!” (At this point my hair has completely gone gray and my wrinkles have become so prominent people think I’m my mother’s older sister.)

Consider Financial Disaster B:

Let’s suppose I want to keep as much of my income for my own disposal. After all it’s mine, I worked for it. So come tax collection time, my accountant finds that I owe our government P100,000. Tax collector comes and I say, in my most even, most convincing, and most let’s-both-be-reasonable-we-can-both-benefit-from-this voice: “Let’s both be reasonable; we can both benefit from this.” If I am assigned an unscrupulous tax agent, it’s a happy ending. As his 25% warms in his pocket we might even share an expensive drink (I pour a small amount for myself which I never drink because I simply don’t; he gets to bring home the rest of the bottle). If honest tax agent gets my name I’m in a bind. Will he:

  • take my offer? After all as a government employee supporting a young family of 4, the pay is never enough. I show that I can empathize with him.
  • refuse my offer? He is too honest. I tell him the system will consume him whole, will slowly and painfully gnaw away his being. He threatens to report me and I laugh at him: he has no proof. And when he does tell his superior he is reprimanded. His boss visits me and apologizes for his agent’s obstinacy and close-mindedness during a round of drinks (he brings home the bottle). Honest agent is summarily transferred to the hinterlands of the Cordilleras. To face extinction.

Which came first, the egg or the chicken?


Want to find out more about our BIR regional director? Google “Mustapha Gandarosa”.



Posted: October 18, 2008 in Bisag Unsa / Random Rants
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It’s official.

A PCLinuxOS-based distribution, TinyMe 2008.0, was installed in a forgotten and aging desktop yesterday. Ranted about it in their (our) forum.

It’s now between Ubuntu (or a derivative) and PCLOS on the laptop.

I’m having an affair.

Unlike other relationships that you move heaven and earth for to keep I am not frozen by guilt or remorse to destroy mine.

The long years and the familiarity have not bored me; on the contrary, I have been continuously challenged.

Maybe that is part of the problem, the challenges have led to frustrations. Promises have been broken. Expectations have increased. So have failures.

I once flirted with Steve, enamored by his suaveness. Unfortunately, his elitist ways diminished the fire. And he was becoming too high-and-mighty for his own good.

So I have been trapped in Bill’s world. I allowed myself to be swayed by his sweet talk. All the empty words. All the manipulations.

The last straw came when he tried to innocently add a few thousands to my laptop purchase, under the guise of his new OS (“Baby, I promise, it looks beeyooteefool…”).

You SOB! You BSODed my old desktop enough times already!

Ay, ma’am, XP na lang,” the technician offered.

So it was back to the Bill that I was used to.

But things were never the same with me again. I ditched IE for FF. I installed OpenOffice.

I wanted to be free.

It was not a surprise that I met Linus.

He does not talk in mindless riddles. He offers security, variety, transparency, efficiency, freedom. And all for free.

I have given it enough thought.

I’m breaking up with Bill. On my birthday.

I won’t write him a letter. I don’t want memories of him in my new reformatted life. Everything will be a clean install.

There will be no “It’s Not You” speech, because it is all because of you, Bill.

I know you don’t really care about me, not when you have your millions billions (at least you’re doing humanitarian work).

I should have done this a long time ago.

My Linux distro shortlist:

  1. Ubuntu 8.04
  2. PCLinuxOS 2007
  3. openSUSE 11.0
  4. Mandriva Linux 2009
  5. Linux Mint 5

Get more Linux distributions at DistroWatch.

Let’s help support free and open-source programs.

(More of Ryan Cartwright’s Bizarre Cathedral at http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com)

A new month has begun.

A lot has happened in the past 2 weeks of blogging absence.

The bad stuff so far (not limited to this small list):

  • worldwide economic meltdown

Like the vast majority of the world I don’t have any direct financial interests in the fallen Wall Street financial institutions that have shaken the stability of money markets worldwide. That’s just the problem; the mindless risk-taking of a few people still affects the entire planet.

  • melamine, “protein substitute”, anyone?

Being someone who loves to drink milk and has nothing against China or the Chinese, the news of melamine finding itself into food it was not invented to mix with is bothersome. Retailers have been ordered to pull out all dairy products which have originated from China. Some consumers have gone as far as to refrain from purchasing any China-made food products. The DOH has named Green Food Yili Pure Milk and Mengniu Original Drink Milk positive for melamine contamination. An independent laboratory found 8 pruducts containing melamine, including a brand of corned beef, luncheon meat, and get this, an iced coffee shake premix served in a popular (unspecified) coffee chain. Got to warn The Accomplice. I take my brewed coffee without frills.

  • fewer doctors

Fewer NMAT takers (NMAT is National Medical Admission Test, a prerequisite for acceptance in most medical schools, cut-off marks vary). Fewer medical school enrollees. Fewer graduates. Fewer doctors. Increased patient load (as if the present load weren’t unbearable to begin with).

Statistics peg the fall in medical school enrollment to 40%.

Add to that the licensed physicians who have chosen to practice abroad, either as doctors or as allied medical personnel.

A Horror Story Continues.

  • global warming
  • the government

The good stuff (also a short list, but hey there are still many things to be happy about!):

  • free movies

Cine Europa 11 at the Rodelsa Hall of Liceo University started yesterday, and runs till tomorrow. Free movie passes are available at the Office of Cultural and Public Affairs.

A scan of the schedule is here. (Thanks to Els (a.k.a. mommy dharlz; darn the h and the z!).)

  • no price increase

In petroleum products, that is. In spite the global financial crisis the price of crude oil has remained stable. No rollback this weekend, though.

  • Velez St

Finally the partial rehabilitation of the once pothole-ridden thoroughfare is complete (the Yacapin to Provincial Capitol stretch). The segments that were unfinished during the fiesta period in August have been opened to traffic.

  • Charice Pempengco

Comments of her youtube videos are riddled with racial slurs. Inggit lang kayo/Suya lang ‘mo. Filipinos are talented.

Enough said.

Lower by Piso

Posted: September 19, 2008 in The Road (and Everything On It)
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Effective 12:01 AM today the prices of petroleum products are cheaper by 1 peso. The Caltex station in the NHA-Kauswagan area seem to be less enthusiatic about this. A few meters away the Shell station have already adjusted and updated their pricelist. (Photos taken today, at 7:15 AM.)

Commuters are now praying for a fare rollback. The Commuters Association of the Philippines will submit a petition today for a PhP 2.50 fare reduction although this will be met by reistance by transport group PISTON on the grounds that diesel still costs above PhP 50.00. And of course there’s red tape – the LTFRB may start reviewing this proposal after 2- 3 weeks, by the first or second week of October.


Posted: September 18, 2008 in Bisag Unsa / Random Rants
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After I earned my undergraduate degree and it became inevitable that I would pursue further studies one of the many things that suffered was my love for reading. Of course I still has to read textbooks and journals and manuals, but my passion for everything nontechnical waned. Upon it befell the fate of a loyal and devoted but forgotten and neglected lover. I deemed it less necessary to my survival, shoved to the back seat (the trunk actually) by the lame excuse “I don’t have enough time!” The weekly book sadly became the yearly book.

How many of us have suffered from this deadly affliction?

How much of the world does not read, whether by choice or by circumstance?

Remember the Queenie Lee-Chua article that came out on the Inquirer last year which revealed a decline in reading among Filipinos? Don’t panic, the trend is worldwide. The local study was based on a survey by the Social Weather Stations, as commissioned by the National Book Development Board to determine the state of Filipino readership, reading habits, and preferences.

I know we Filipinos love to read but are sadly limited by other factors such as the cost and availability of books: only if the average Pinoy could afford them, only if they were available in the first place. Ask the next guy in the jeepney stop, the kid hawking cigarettes and sweets in traffic, or kids forced into evacuation centers by the hostilities in Mindanao. Reading has simply become a privilege instead of a birthright.

To those of us fortunate enough not to be hindered to read, I wonder when will we realize that distractions such as television, video games, and other activities which make us feel we don’t have enough time, are so trivial? That if we want to do something, and if that something was important enough we will always find time for it? (Like most things, like exercise. But that’s another story.)

So I am going to challenge myself: ONE BOOK A WEEK.

That means 16 books until the end of the year.

I have dust on an entire bookshelf of unread books waiting to be disturbed. On top of that I have accumulated nearly a gig of fiction ebooks.

Reading is on the decline but those of us who can change the numbers should do something.

Let’s start with ourselves.

(The book/s I am currently reading will be posted under Literally Speaking, while read  books for the challenge under Recent Reads.)

Knocking on 90

Posted: September 17, 2008 in The Road (and Everything On It)
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Oil prices fell to a seven-month low yesterday, at USD 91.15 per barrel, before climbing by 3%, to USD 94.32 today. Decrease in demand and global financial worries spurned by brothers of the Lehman kind going bad contributed to cutting our celebration short.

But I want to maintain my optimism in everything that is good in this planet. The graph below, from Crude Oil Price Forecast, shows a promising trend for us common citizens of the world: