Tiger by the tail; Debate; Church backs out

HERE'S THE SCORE - Teodoro C. Benigno -
The government may not know it, but it has, or could have a tiger by the tail in cracking down on two entertainment celebrities for alleged tax evasion. Tax evasion? There are thousands of highly prominent names in the public and private sectors who have royally screwed the government in this regard and gotten away with it. So why pick on Richard Gomez and Regine Velasquez? Though vexed, I am sure the two will settle their taxes - they have no private armies to fight back – although they have all the right to ask – why pick on us?

That’s easy to answer.

Their popularity is unquestionable. They grace the temples of media with resounding allure. Goma’s is one of the most recognizable faces in the Philippines and so is that of Regine - "Asia’s Songbird." They couldn’t be touched in the old days. They were masa icons, untouchable. Demigods whose reach touch the clouds. Today, they are identified with the opposition, and so they’re fair game.

But the Philippine government is in a terrible bind. If in the next two years, if it cannot raise the amount of P80 to P100 billion or so, it will both implode and explode under the staggering weight of a national debt or deficit amounting to about P5 trillion. We shall go the way of Argentina which declared national bankruptcy about five years ago, even our own president says. No wonder. Thousands of Filipinos flee the Philippines everyday for foreign lands.

Okay. But when you hit Richard Gomez and Regine Velasquez with the branding iron, can you stop? Where do you stop? Do you ever let go of the tiger? Or you hang on as more and more prominent people are caught in its claws?

I don’t mean they are involved, but certainly the Bureau of Internal Revenue will have to look at the tax books of Kris Aquino, Lorna Tolentino, Sharon Cuneta, Vilma Santos, Joey Marquez (who once boasted he had more money than Cory Aquino), Judy Ann Santos, Cesar Montano, Aga Mulach, Christopher de Leon.

And if they do, will they stop there? How about the old and new rich, the lords and ladies of Makati, the Ayalas, the Zobels, the Madrigals, the Aboitizes, the Sorianos? And yes, the so-called tycoons of the Church like Mike Velarde, the Manalos of Iglesia ni Cristo, and now they even include the name of Brother Eddie Villanueva and his Jesus is Lord? There are some businesses of the Church that make a lot of money. Will they too be touched?

And so you cannot stop anymore, the tiger romps and rages.

And, you go for the beneficiaries of jueteng and narcotics, and the pay-off here could be in the billions. Just who are the big names involved? How come for all the moral filth heaped on him over the decades. Bong Pineda is not in jail? And, irony of ironies, Joseph Estrada is, facing a death sentence for plunder because of jueteng?

And if all this is not simply anak ng jueteng, where does the name of Jose Pidal fit? Wasn’t Mike Arroyo pointedly identified by Sen. Lacson as Jose Pidal, holder of bank accounts into which millions of questionable money reportedly collected by his wife were sluiced? And The Firm. So often has it been mentioned that is the power behind GMA and that it has the corner on all judicial appointments. Money by the mounds certainly? Is this still the old firm of Tony Carpio, Pancho Villarraza and Nonong Cruz whose halcyon days began with FVR?

And the generals?

Would the supreme leader stop there? Everyone knows she needs the generals – who have the weapons, the brigades, the fortress – to protect her. Would Generals Angelo Reyes, Eduardo Ermita, Arturo Lomibao stand behind her come what may because, among others, the secrets Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot will burst like a big, rancid, putrid, rotten boil and destroy the military. And where would the country be without the military?

And so will GMA ever learn how to hold that tiger?

Perestroika was such a tiger, and for a time Mikhail Gorbachev rode it magnificently. But perestroika had a life of its town, could not be controlled or manipulated. Eventually, it swept over the entire Soviet Union, and the Soviet empire of 13 republics exploded. And now Vladimir Putin is all by his lonesome, not knowing whether to accept or flirt with democracy or go back to the old dictatorship.

And in a smaller, more modest way, the winds of freedom touched Georgia just about three years ago the people could no longer put up with the dictatorship of George Shevardnadze. They rebelled, occupied Parliament, and forced the once redoubtable Shevardnadze to flee.

That too happened in the Ukraine, just like Georgia a former Soviet republic just months ago. Fraudulent elections overnight ignited massive street demonstrations even under freezing cold. The people demanded another election, and Viktor Yushchenko, earlier cheated of the presidency, won by a mile.

The apprehension is that the legacy of Soviet dictatorship is now under attack in the emancipated 13 republics and more and more demonstrations of "people power" wait in the wings to spill out at the right time and take over power. People power, tigers all.

Funny, but fraudulent elections were the cause of it all.

Here, many critics lambasted the May 10 elections as riddled with fraud and massive cheating. But the losing parties and presidential candidates just couldn’t muster the outrage to send their followers ad partisans to the streets. Only the lovely Susan Roces astounded the nation by branding GMA an "illegal" and "inefficient" president. And who knows? She might just one day ride the white horse of the opposition?

But let’s see how the cases of Richard Gomez and Regine Velasquez prosper. Mintis, quitis, or the real bang.
* * *
Did the Vatican instruct the bishops of our Roman Catholic Church to back out of a public debate on controlling population growth? Or did our bishops do this on their own, perhaps realizing such a TV debate with a national audience would substantially lessen their spiritual luster? Honestly, I saw it no other way, even if from the outset the Church sought to pooh-pooh the stature of Rep. Edcel Lagman.

It was Lagman who had challenged Archbishop Fernando Capalla to a debate reportedly after the Church and pro-life groups came out against his bill on population management or control. Almost all over the world, the Roman Church had retreated on this issue. Their initial argument was that there was no such thing as over-population. The fault lay with the government which didn’t produce enough food to feed a growing populating.

From the very outset, this columnist, a Catholic, debunked this argument as asinine, and quoted a number of political pundits and philosophers to buttress my view. Egad? If were not overpopulated at 84 million, then there was a bolt missing somewhere, a nut missing somewhere, and the whole shebang was just a figment in the imagination of Rastus, the village idiot.

This contrarisan position must be discarded by he Church at all costs.

It just wouldn’t do to blame the government and the government alone for this sorry state of things. In France during the First and Second world wars, hundreds of thousands of if not millions of men had died, and only so much were around to man French Industry and keep society going. The opposite prevailed. There were more than enough food and provisions, but the population was decimated.

The women outnumbered the men 2-l. Evidently France was critically under populated. What did the government do? It encouraged the production of large families. Large bonuses were given to parents who gave birth to more boys than girls, and the birth of a baby boy was welcomed with abundant joy. Yes, the reverse of family control was promoted. In the same manner, the Chinese government realized just years ago, their bloated 1.2 billion population had to be controlled and out came the word that families were limited to only one baby.

You know what this did? It shaved huge slices of the population from poverty. To a substantial extent this explains the phenomenal economic progress of China. The less excess people there were, the more wealth could be created and distributed. And productivity encouraged. And now, the economic miracle.











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