Filipino or human
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 5, 2014 - 12:00am

Is it because I am Filipino or because I am human?

As the nation begins to learn about the untimely death of Jugo Arroyo Bernas, the 13-month-old son of presidential daughter Luli Arroyo, the Filipino in us undoubtedly feel the loss of Jugo’s entire family. Part of me is stirred to visit the wake, part of me feels deep sadness for Luli who has always been a low profile and courteous person even at the height of her mother’s political power. Part of me being a father can only imagine the pain of Luigi Bernas and can only say a prayer for heaven’s comfort.

The other part of me is indignant and angry that at a time such as this, we find ourselves in a legal system that deny people accused of crimes the most basic need to physically share in their family’s loss and mourning. Yet we as taxpayers pay millions of pesos for men and women with imaginary sense of risk, illusions of being important persons and imagined threats. Worst, we provide police and military security for people who can very well afford to provide their own.

When news reports quoted government prosecutors saying that they were against letting Gloria Arroyo attend the wake based on legal arguments and medical claims, I have to confess that I was livid! No I am neither friend nor foe to Gloria Arroyo but I certainly find the prosecution’s arguments unnecessary and inhuman. It would have sufficed to say that they “oppose” the defendant’s request. And if the court required elaboration, then cite previous arguments. In fact this is the sort of legal debates and talk that should have been kept from media because of the sensitive situation and reason for the request for furlough.

I am certain that haters will undoubtedly claim that the rich should get the same treatment as the poor. I disagree. The poor should be entitled to the same rights as the rich. The inhuman and inconsiderate state that poor prisoners and accused are subjected to is not and should not be the basis of how we treat prisoners whether they are Gloria Macapagal Arroyo or some snatcher-killer from the slums of Tondo. The politically motivated desire for revenge and to punish enemies should not be the spirit behind the law and our penal system. 

Just because I am Filipino does not mean I cannot appreciate law and justice. It is because I am Filipino that I am able to better appreciate the often said truth that “It is better to care than to be right.”

On behalf of my wife Karen and daughter Hannah, I wish to send our most sincere condolences to the parents of Jugo and the entire Bernas and Arroyo family. May God surround you with his mercy and with people who only see your loss and your need.

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Since I’ve started on “death” and justice,  I might as well carry on.

Over the weekend, family members got to talking about taxes and estate planning and it reminded me of a question and suggestion I once made to BIR Commissioner Kim Henares. In as much as a member of Congress has filed a bill that will allow taxpayers to pay their income tax via credit card, Why not go further by allowing families to pay “installment” on their family/estate tax?

I made the suggestion a few years back because I know for a fact that many families get marooned with no means to pay estate tax when the main bread winner dies, especially when banks and the BIR automatically freeze the account like they did when my father died. I actually had to sell my personal vehicle to raise the money to pay lawyers, accountants and the BIR and it still took us some five years to finally divide up whatever was left through extrajudicial partition.

Congressmen and Senators should also look into what many people view as double taxation on estates where families pay for the estate tax when one parent dies and then have to pay all over again when the mother dies. There is also the vague question about why the wife needs to pay for the whole estate if the properties were conjugal to begin with? I don’t know much and I am simply writing down what people at the dinner table were throwing my way. As for me, I certainly feel bad for my wife who as a foreigner can’t own property directly and yet will have to shoulder paying for my estate when I croak! She undoubtedly contributed to saving and acquiring our home but the only time she gets hold of her share is through inheritance when I’ve been fried and scattered in the farm! Senator Sonny Angara should look into this because the Constitution prohibits foreigners from owning land, but what about conjugal property?         

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If P-Noy has been asking Secretary Ona a lot of questions, then he should also ask Secretary Babes Singson why many DPWH projects have been left standing unfinished or allowed to be done via manual labor? Driving around Metro Manila, we’ve noticed many road surfaces that have been scraped such as SLEX to Cubao flyover, the Pioneer Street widening etc and have been left uncompleted and causing traffic congestion. On Pioneer Street, I saw two men with two shovels picking up rocks and soil along at least 50-meter long stretch. That takes weeks to do. Then there are a number of roads where big drainage canals were built but the storm drains and covers were badly done, leaving the equivalent of deep dips on roads like McKinley, Imelda Avenue etc. What is happening is that drivers feel like they are going through a series of humps and bumps and end up avoiding those lanes, thereby decreasing usable lanes and space.

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