Batuhan: Death and taxes-A A +A
Sunday, November 3, 2013
OUR new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
— Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789
Especially in the Philippines, the second part of this statement of certainty is always top of mind. After all, everyone is affected. Either one is taxed too much, or taxed too little. Put another way, one is either robbed of taxes, or one robs people of their taxes.
Witness only the scams supposedly perpetrated by the ilk of Janet Napoles. How many of the people were victimized due to their ruthless and systematic thievery of the nation’s coffers? How many innocent taxpaying citizens were denied the privilege of having their hard-earned contribution to the nation’s coffers going to worthy causes, and ending up instead to funding the lavish parties and posh lifestyles of the perpetrators?
The answers is – a lot! A lot of people were victimised, and a lot of money was misappropriated. Which leads us to the second part of this certainty statement – death.
Where am I going with this? Well, in the measure that Benjamin Franklin did not realise that his statement made over two hundred years ago properly applies to the Philippines, in a macabre and morbid sort of way. And it is that misappropriation of taxes has death as a consequence.
Really? But how so?
For many of our readers who are probably at least of some means to afford the necessary basics in life – food, clothing and shelter – the connection may not be so apparent. But for those who are not as equipped, the connection is readily obvious.
I was watching the news a few days ago, and what greeted me was the sight of rice; yes rice, that all important staple of the Filipino diet; rotting away in many NFA warehouses. Apparently, during the time of the previous president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whoever was head of the nation’s food agency decided in his or her wisdom that it was wise to import five times more rice than what the nation needed in an entire year. As a result, not only were our rice-growing farmers denied the opportunity to make the most from their crop, the imported commodity was also laid to waste without being consumed. All the while that this was happening, thousands of our countrymen were going hungry, denied of their daily rice.
Well, going hungry may not lead to instant death, but the lack of decent healthcare surely does.
A household staff of ours, in an errand to take a relative for some emergency medical treatment, described to me a scene reminiscent of the mayhem and chaos that one would expect to see in a military field hospital in Iraq or Afghanistan, on a bad day. Only this was not Iraq or Afghanistan he was talking about, but the Philippine General Hospital, on a good day. He narrated scenes of the ill and afflicted cramming every available room, and spilling over into the corridors and public spaces. There were people crying, screaming and generally being hysterical because they could not get the care they needed. There were, he said, even people who probably died without ever getting the attention of a medical professional.
Fast forward to the YouTube video of Janet Napoles’ family celebrating a member’s birthday fete in the United States. Champagne and expensive wine flowed freely.
Exquisite food, fine china, and the best silverware were on display for everyone to admire. The glitterati and the rich and famous were in attendance. It was as if they were, well, Philippine royalty.
How many Philippine General Hospitals could this misappropriated money have built? How much free medicine could have been provided to indigent patients, for every glass of champagne that was drunk in that party?
We don’t really know for sure yet if Ms. Napoles is guilty as charged. But if she is, then the second part of Ben’s Franklin famous quote ought to be changed, in her “honor.” It should instead now read “...but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except that death is the result of the theft of people’s taxes.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 04, 2013.