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Remembering 9/11

SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2014 - 12:00am

New York City – It was a deeply moving experience to visit the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan yesterday. Anyone who visits the memorial will inevitably find himself in tears when you begin to recall where you were on that fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorist extremists hijacked four commercial jets and crashed two of them into the Twin Towers, resulting in the total destruction of the World Trade Center which has come to be known as “ground zero.”

We also had a chance to see the inside of the Pentagon where the memorial chapel was established with the names of those who perished.

Almost 3,000 people died, among them Filipinos. as well as the 400 “first responders” – the emergency workers and firefighters who died as they rushed to help. Several days ago, three of the firefighters who were at ground zero in the aftermath of the terrorist attack all died of cancer on the same day, raising to 92 the number of search and rescue workers who died of 9/11-related illnesses. According to NYC health statistics, a high 99 percent of responders were diagnosed with lung and respiratory illnesses after the attack due to prolonged exposure to the toxic air that hovered above ground zero for months. A study from the New York City Fire Department also noted that the firefighters lost “12 years lung capacity in the blink of an eye.”

Since its opening in 2011, the 9/11 Memorial has become “a must see” place to visit especially with the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum last May. The memorial has managed to draw over four million people, while the museum has attracted 500,000 visitors in the last four months since it formally opened. The memory of those who perished are very vivid in the photos and details about them – with boxes of tissue thoughtfully placed for those who cannot help their tears as they go around the museum. For those of you who have an opportunity to do so – you must visit the 9/11 memorial museum. Not only because it‘s there, but because it is a constant reminder for all of us to guard against evil forces that continue to threaten our very existence and way of life.

Concerns about the BBL

Philippine Hotel Federation president Arthur Lopez, who joined us on our trip to Washington, DC, had an opportunity to discuss the Bangsamoro issue with retired US Sen. Richard Lugar. Being from Zamboanga, Arthur shared his apprehension and concern about the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would create a political entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Arthur informed the senator that the draft law should be looked at very carefully because it could potentially exacerbate the problem and worsen the situation in Mindanao. There are difficult questions that must be satisfactorily answered to assuage the misgivings of all stakeholders, including the Christians who would be affected by the BBL. Among the tricky issues are several provisions that seem to put the Bangsamoro on equal footing with the national government. Another is the implementation of the revenue sharing scheme and the system of tax collection, and the perception that there is preferential treatment for Bangsamoro areas at the expense of non-Bangsamoro.

The retired senior senator from Indiana told Arthur it was a legitimate concern.

BIR made the wrong number

We were informed by some friends in Manila that the Bureau of Internal Revenue has filed tax evasion charges against Dr. Steve Mark Gan, known to friends as a decent man, and who also happens to be my dentist. Many people appreciate what the young dentist is doing to bring the dental profession up to par, investing in state-of-the-art equipment and employing cutting-edge technology in his clinic. We also know of his long-term plans to make dental services available to more people by putting up clinics in malls at affordable rates.

Those who know Dr. Gan are extremely disturbed at the way the tax bureau has been handling things, and angry at the unfair treatment the young doctor has received. Our sources in the bureau told Spy Bits that Dr. Mark has been paying his taxes religiously and in fact, the BIR was only going to bill Dr. Gan for some deficiencies in his previous tax filings. However, out of the blue, someone high up in the bureau decided to arbitrarily file a case without any clear evidence.

The irony is that Dr. Mark was given a plaque of appreciation by the BIR as a top taxpayer for several years. It was certainly not fair for the BIR to lump him in the list of delinquent taxpayers and drag his name in a shame campaign.  Perhaps the tax bureau people should study their processes and put a threshold amount to determine when people should be included in the list of targets. That way, they avoid making a “wrong number.”

***

This column was supposed to have been published last Tuesday, September 30, but due to a technical glitch, we were not able to email our column to The Philippine STAR. Hence, we are publishing it today.

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Email: spybits08@yahoo.com.

ARTHUR LOPEZ AUTONOMOUS REGION BANGSAMORO BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE DR. GAN DR. MARK DR. STEVE MARK GAN MEMORIAL
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