Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Two negatives a positive does not make, IRL

No, this isn't about the LP thing; I am still so dissed at it that I still can't properly write about it. This is about a little debate that occurred between two of my kada during our Christmas get-together.

Consider the protagonists: one is a newly-grad law student who just took the bar. Of all my kada, she's perhaps the most "Establishment" of us all, even more so than me. The other kada is the one who had three girlfriends all at the same time, all the while finding nothing wrong in it while remaining as one of Youth for Christ's organizers. In a very real sense, this friend of mine could be described as... amoral.

Anyway: the debate was sparked by his, uh, business practices. Jaq (the law student kada) and I (initially) were trying to convince him to be more, ah... legal with the way he conducts his business. Mostly, Jaq and I were trying to convince him to register his biz with the appropriate agencies, since this was the lawful thing to do (and I wonder why in the Alignment Test of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons I still rated as Lawful Good?).

Francis (my other kada, the one we were debating with) initially parried our points. But as Jaq (now solo debating with Francis by this time since I already came to the conclusion that he was too set in his ways to be reasoned with) engaged him deeper and longer, he began to... deflect the arguments about what the Republic deserves with stuff like he's being nationalistic with using Filipino talent in his biz, or that none of his income goes abroad unlike the megacorps who are based here, or that despite there being no contracts between him and his financial backers, he gives them their dues and in time, and others besides.

Like I said above, I stopped debating with Francis because I realized - and also because I've been with this guy at least since second year high school - he won't be convinced by any of our arguments. He implied he's earning much from his biz; like he said, why would he allow government to cut into his substantial bottom line when it would most likely go to the pockets of corrupt officials? Jaq was countering this with its the salaried citizens that bear the brunt of tax-evading businessmen like him.

In one sense, I could understand where Francis was coming from. Too much corruption discourages business. Corruption is like a leech that sucks away at the lifeblood of enterprise, and most of the time its the small ones, the vulnerable ones, that are subjected to the greed of evil public officials because small businesses lack the resources to defend themselves against this predation.


I remember that time I received my first taxable paycheck. You'd be surprised how... elated I was. Personally, I view the Income Tax as one of the proofs that one is an adult, since only full adults supposedly earn enough money, or keep a job, that necessitates taxing. But even more than that, aside from it being my civic duty as a Citizen of the Republic of the Philippines to give my share for its upkeep, I always say that people who pay taxes are the ones with the right to criticize government and demand that things should be better. Why? Because we PAY for this right, even before any personal purchases because the law subtracts a certain amount from our salaries even before we see our paycheck.

People who don't pay taxes have absolutely no right to complain, in my book. Especially if they are earning a decent amount from working here or operating a business locally.

But I think what really got me concerned was the fact that people, like Francis, are ready to twist the law, or even discard it entirely, just to get what they want and then justify it. It’s so irksome in that people like Francis seem to be of the opinion that they are entitled to the benefits of a liberal democratic republic with a free market system while sidestepping the responsibilities attendant to being a citizen of that republic.

It’s not even a question of whether your money does go to the proper upkeep of your nation or it lines the pockets of your congressman. That’s not the point in the system of taxation that runs a modern country. When Conrado de Quiros called on people to withhold their taxes in order to keep their money away from Gloria’s government, I thought that this was such an irresponsible thing to do. Taxes run this nation. If people don’t pay their taxes, the country will cease functioning.

Dealing with corruption, that is preventing your public officials from dipping their grubby hands into the wealth of the nation to further theirs, is not a function of taxation. Taxation deals with ensuring a nation has enough to function, and maybe a little bit more to grow. Preventing greedy people from misusing one’s taxes is part of another system, the one where a citizen is an active stakeholder and demands from his or her public official that these resources be spent properly and effectively.

You can’t foil corruption by withholding your taxes. That way leads to even greater corruption as government begins to lack the resources it needs to function, and people in the bureaucracy begin to be subjected to more… external pressures. If more businessmen, or the highest-salaried people in this country, paid the proper taxes – or, rather PAID their taxes – then maybe government would at least have funds to give its employees decent-enough salaries so they won’t stoop down to accepting bribes just to make ends meet (heck, perhaps teachers wouldn’t have to sell stuff to their students and focus more on teaching).

True, government sorely needs to implement a more effective tax-enforcement scheme. But how come, year after year, taxation is low? Because, whether through the magic of their elite accountants and/or “gifts” to well–placed people in the bureaucracy, people who earn more pay less (or none at all).

See, that’s what’s wrong with the Filipino: instead of demanding what is our right as taxpayers, as citizens, we instead spit on the law. Is it the law, the system, that is the problem in the first place? No. It’s the PEOPLE. The Law, and the systems that determine its operation, are there. It’s people who find ways to either subvert those systems, or disregard them utterly.

Heck, even Supreme Court Justices do it. Look at that TRO on the LP and the COMELEC. Imagine, Drilon’s Wing of Evil, Lying and Arrogant People Who Claim They’re Liberals but in Truth are Communists in Disguise got a TRO when the Supreme Court was in recess and the Chief Justice had just arrived from abroad? Amazing. And all it took was one Cory Aquino to make the Justices sidestep the SC’s own rules, the CJ to not follow procedure, and for democracy to be stifled.

And they have the gall to say they are doing this to keep external factors from influencing an internal party matter? Sheesh. The lie is so slick it would put a frictionless surface to shame.

Was it a fault of the system? Nope. It was people. People with the resources to pervert the system and the lack of morality to do anything just to get what they want.

So long as Filipinos think this way – the whole situation is dirty, anyway, so I will play dirty – then it will be really difficult to change this country