Bam’s sneaky move – Manila Standard

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Paolo Benigno Aquino, the cosplayer-senator, has leveled up. From calling for the distribution to the poor of fastfood leftovers, the man who used a pair of spectacles and a famous surname to somehow worm his way into the Senate now bats for the allocation of five percent of our taxes to the House-defunded Commission on Human Rights.

But wait. As it was filed in July last year, Aquino’s Senate Bill 699 actually proposes nothing of the sort, which is really sneaky on the part of this Ninoy lookalike-wannabe.

Aquino obviously just wants to ride on the supposed outrage caused by the action of the House of Representatives this week to slash to budget for 2018 of the CHR to P1,000. His original bill called for giving taxpayers the choice of earmarking five percent of their income taxes to fund:

An accredited charity or civil society organization;

A priority national or local government project; or

A legitimate political party

This is misrepresentation not seen since Aquino proposed to bring down the cost of Internet service by conducting an investigation that did not lower the price of connection at all. And I still remember that high-profile probe every time I pay my Internet service provider.

“If my bill becomes law, the taxpayer will have the power to choose where to spend a portion of their taxes,” Aquino explained yesterday. “This is already done in other countries and it’s time to do this here.”

Because I no longer trust Aquino to do my research for me, I decided to check out this last claim of his. I came up with something called the American election campaign fund checkoff, which allows taxpayers in the US to tick a box that will give $3 from their federal tax payments to something called the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

This fund is by no means partisan, unlike Aquino’s proposal. Both the Republican and Democratic parties receive a fixed amount of “checkoff dollars” while other parties get smaller amounts if they get over five percent of the vote, to go with matching funds from the federal government for every dollar that they get directly from taxpayers.

No way is $3 (around P153), even in this impoverished country, equivalent to five percent of income. And if you are among those who already get taxed the maximum 32 percent on P500,000 annual income under the current tax regime (not a lot of money these days), you’ll get the idea of the size of the tax “donation” that Aquino wants you to make.

It is worth noting that after the passage of the US campaign fund checkoff law in 1971, no other such “tax choice” measure has been approved by Congress. Even if this early attempt at “crowdfunding” was merely a token, it was never repeated.

Now Aquino, who had earlier claimed that he was responsible for the free college tuition bonanza last year (he was not; it was a fluke surplus to end a bicameral budget standoff), wants us to directly fund political parties like his very own—hint, hint—LP with our taxes by riding on the CHR issue.

Aquino just wants to push his misbegotten bill using the current brouhaha. Even if in his own proposal, he never thought of funding an entire government agency once Congress had defunded it.

If Aquino really wanted to fund the CHR, he would donate all his salaries and benefits as a senator to the rights agency. If he can’t do that, he’s just play-acting once again—sneakily and not too convincingly, if I may add.

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Is it just me or is the House attempting to get Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista off the hook by throwing out the impeachment case filed against the elections boss on a mere technicality? This could be the scenario as a result of the junking of the second verified impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

According to reports, the second complaint against Sereno was dismissed on the basis of improper form because it did not follow the rules for a charge that would not be directly sent to the Senate. This is supposedly the same infirmity that plagues that endorsed complaint against Bautista, which the House justice committee intends to tackle next week.

What the committee is saying is that the form of the second Sereno complaint was intended not to be heard in the House but to be immediately brought before the Senate through the “creeping impeachment” method used to impeach both President Joseph Estrada and Chief Justice Renato Corona. Because the House wants to hear it first, the Bautista complaint is now in danger of suffering the same fate as the second Sereno charge sheet.

Of course, it is the House justice committee that determines sufficiency in form (and substance) of impeachment complaints. And by dismissing the second complaint against Sereno, the panel has now laid the predicate for the dismissal of Bautista’s charges using the same rule.

And why would the House throw out the complaint against Bautista, which in the opinion of many is a lot stronger and more important than the Sereno impeachment? I don’t really know.

But maybe the sheer number of the House members who got elected last year with Bautista’s “help” has something to do with it.

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