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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, January 18, 2019
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Maintenance medicines and VAT

Ninfa Leonardia

Our sympathies to government workers who had been expecting to have a happy start to 2019 with some increase in the contents of their pay envelops. Seem they now have to watch and wait for the finger-pointing among concerned officials who are battling among themselves as to whom to blame. However, it looks as if more fingers are pointed towards Congress that has delayed the passing of the General Appropriations Act, or the budget. Meanwhile, government offices are still basing salaries of workers on the old budget, or what they call a “re-enacted” one.

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What is just as disturbing is the report that, as of now, our country is indebted for as much as P4.78 TRILLION, which is higher than the figures at the close of 2018. The item revealing that is followed by another that says the rise is due to the Build, Build, Build program of the government. We have nothing about building roads, bridges, and the lot, but aren’t we living beyond our means? Does the present administration have concrete plans to meet those debts when they fall due? I believe our biggest creditors are China and Japan, countries near us, who could have dreams of “foreclosing” ours.

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Bacolod residents are watching with bated breath the developments on the case of their police chief and four other officers who had been “fired” unceremoniously during a birthday party that they were reportedly providing security for, a few days ago. After the firing was announced, the group was told to report to Malacañang, that most people thought would be for a dressing down. Apparently it was not, because later, reports said the dismissed ones will have to undergo “due process”.

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All along I thought “due process” came before dismissal or condemnation, but apparently it has a new meaning now. So, are the luckless officers now scrambling to get lawyers to plead their cause, because I understand, it means they will have to face the court, or proper investigation first? Is this an example of what we were taught in school about the “ex post facto law”. I don’t think I have ever heard of its application before. But times must have changed, and even court processes are seeing modifications.

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After reading in the news a lot about right-of-way problems encountered in the building of diversion roads, I can’t help wondering why the people in the Department of Public Works and Highways are moaning about houses erected on what they plan to build those new roads on. Everybody wants more roads, but what about those who have already settled on land they own, which is now in the path of the new roads being built? Do the DPWH people do any advanced surveys or studies before laying out their road plans?

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Me, I do not blame those homeowners who stubbornly refuse to move out until assured, or even paid BEFORE they agree to move out. We know of too many instances of such promises that had taken owners of property a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, as well as time, to get paid. And what do they do while waiting for payment, squat on someone else’s property? There should be a law compelling the government, or, specifically the DPWH, to pay before building, and another one protecting the homeowner’s right to stay put until duly recompensed.

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If the reader had seen that photo of the house standing right in the path of the partially constructed road, one would realize how road planners do their thing. Had they not realized there was such a house standing there, until their construction had to stop before it? One could suspect they were too eager to start getting the funds for road building that they neglected to check first what structures would be in the way. If I were the houseowner, I would give them a hard time and keep stalling until they get charged with some violation or other.

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A very interesting report in the national media yesterday was the order of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to drugstores to comply with the law requiring them to exempt certain medicines from the imposition of the VAT, or value added tax. This had supposedly been required since the passing of the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law). And those medicines include those for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, that are being prescribed as “maintenance” medication for sufferers. The law was supposed to be applied since the start of the year, i.e. Jan. 1, 2019. If you are a user of such medicines, check your latest receipts for them, and demand a refund from your drugstore if it had still imposed the VAT on your purchases. This is a boon for patients.*

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