COUNTLESS ATTEMPTS TO organize a Civil Society here – one with both tongue and fangs- somehow became stillborn or had a premature birth and then death or already sputtered even at the airport’s launching pad. For many reasons.
No, there were no lack of issues. Maybe, it’s time like that of a Redeemer’s birth had not yet come. Yet, when he was born in poor circumstances, He shook the world to its senses like no one ever had.
Civil societies, as the United Nations state, are the “Third Force” – separate from Government and Business but can provide the link to both. Always reform -oriented for good governance, transparency and the environment, they represent no “vested personal interests” that, thereby, cloak them with the invincible armor of a Joan of Ark.
Boholanos needed -for a long time- to nurture a vibrant civil society to stand as a watch group on things which governance might have missed to recognize or prioritize, so to speak. But an eye-opener just happened in our midst like a modern-day miracle.
We are talking about the on-going “anti-reclamation cry” which is a very encouraging scenario where people start to voluntarily come together and stand as one.
We thank the “Tagbilaran Baywatch” of lawyer Gertrude Biliran who started and is now sustaining the watch against reclamation proposals in the province. It has even attracted the support of the Dumaguete reformists who are battling their own Anti- reclamation struggles there. This local anti-reclamation shout-out is coming out strong and determined.
In fact, we see Mayor Jane Yap’s administration bowing down to the almighty call of the majority of the people, Needless to say that there were many groups and individual well-meaning Boholanos have come out strong in airing their voice against reclamations.
We say this is a moment of victory for the people. As they say, the voice of the people is the voice of God.
We salute in great admiration all the sectors who rallied behind the call to protect our environment. Multi-sectoral indeed. And courageous.
And thus, we see them proudly standing tall and mighty now in the bar of public opinion. For us, this is a breakthrough. It’s been a long time in coming.
And we hope this to be just the beginning, the spark to ignite the birth of forward- looking, objective and concerned Boholanos. The Chronicle hopes that the public has graduated from the usual “sound of silence” (pardon us, Simon and Garfunkel) where only a handful will stand out in the open. For many years, it was “hello darkness, my old friend.”
We cannot help but cite two examples where the Boholanos became so timid that they preferred just to be at the sidelights, in hushed murmuring just for the next-door neighbor to hear, as if petrified by fear of an unknown danger.
This happened during our clash on issues with then Mayor Dan Lim and then Gov Art Yap. This paper, faithful to its calling, exposed issues which were detrimental to the public good and interest.
In the case of then Mayor Lim, City Hall started to show its might as they said that no one can fight and beat City Hall. It was a ring fight with gloves taken off- for years. It has become a part of Bohol’s checkered media history that this media group was ready to go in a head-on war against then Mayor Lim. A decade later, the feisty mayor is reduced to a reminiscing state.
Today, we are elated to hear that the former mayor pronounced several times i n public, that he never realized that what this media group was exposing were legitimate issues which he should have taken a look at for relevant actions.
But he now humbly says that this paper was never wrong and short of saying that his stand against the media could have been avoided as he now shows nothing but high respect for the Fourth Estate. In fact, Lim is now in the forefront in the war against corruption being the vice chair of the Office of Governance Accountability and Review (OGAR). As a horribly barking dog, he is good at where he is now.
This role of the Fourth Estate was again misconstrued to be “politicking” in the eyes of an onion-skinned politician who again harassed the media by charging our associate editor with citing to sedition after allegedly collaborating with two private individuals in criticizing then Gov. Art Yap. Funny, one “collaborator”, the associate editor never met in his lifetime and the other, once a sworn mortal enemy of the paper. Ridiculous, is a mild term.
In one of the statements of Yap, he accused the Chronicle to be part of the opposition after reports on alleged anomalies saw print in this paper. Yap was fuming mad at this paper. In fact, he got the support of his then Vice Gov, Rene Relampagos, who in the halls of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, was once (brandishing) a copy of this paper and blatantly said the Chronicle was peddling lies and therefore, no one should read it.
Of course, the sedition charges filed by then Gov. Yap at the Makati Prosecutor’s Office did not land first base. It was dismissed and, in fact, the filing of the case became a laughing matter among lawyers.
Needless to point out that the alleged mismanagement of the Yap -Relampagos administration was validated in the results of the last elections when both top incumbent provincial officials were relegated to the political doghouses in what was unprecedented when a sitting governor and vice governor were both defeated, not just by a small margin, but by a huge over 100,000 votes.
The paper was also earlier featured in a journalism book as the “Dragon Slayer in the Countryside,” a book written by esteemed journalist-professor Crispin Maslog of Silliman University.
The reason we recall both media wars with an ex-mayor and an ex-governor was because the media (unfortunately) actually did a “proxy war” as the public was quiet and timid to voice their opinion.
The critics and the indifferent were silent and left the Chronicle as the veritable “last man standing” thus, we were even branded as part of the opposition.
We hope indeed that this new breed of Boholanos in the anti-reclamation war should take this one shining moment as the new beginnings of a vibrant civil society.
We do not wish to highlight the joke that the reason why our hero Francisco Dagohoy was given the title ” leader of the country’s longest revolt” was because he was, mostly, in hiding for the longest time.
We hope the Boholanos of today will no longer be in anxious hiding. And this includes the many trolls in social media today who criticize people cowardly as they hide under the skirts of their fake Facebook accounts.
We in media join the new Civil Society- hand in hand- in helping build our “social capital” so people can now talk freely and empower the marginalized to improve their own well-being and our beloved community.
ATTEND BIR HEARING ON PROPERTY TAXES
EVERYONE CONCERNED ABOUT the business future of Bohol should attend the public hearing on Real Property Taxes (RPT) scheduled to be conducted by a 15-man regional BIR Office Delegation, scheduled here sometime December 22.
Based on the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) initiated during the auspices of former Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and anchored on the recommendation of the Asian Development Bank, all LGUS have been mandated to reassess the “ZONAL” valuation of all real property upon which related real estate taxes are based.
This differs largely from the “MARKET” value which is based on the economics of the area as to the best use of the land and the vagaries of the law of supply and demand.
During the pandemic (2020) and almost without public hearing, the local authorities increased the zonal valuation of properties especially in the prosperous areas of Tagbilaran,
Panglao and Dauis and implemented in 2021 to the consternation of most businessmen, property owners, brokers and land buyers, business establishments and homeowners.
People were shocked to hear of zonal values of P50,000 per square meter in Panglao. Who can shoulder that kind of tax burden?
Since the DOF mandate is for a review of zonal values every three years, a new value matrix will be decided to be implemented in 2024 (three years after 2021) which is the subject of the discussions here this December 22.
Stakeholders complain that the new zonal values assigned in 2021 were too high, too arbitrary and even confiscatory (with without consultation). It would be interesting to note if after December 22, the RPT (real property taxes) will be maintained or even reduced to reflect the zonal valuations.
Too high taxes will depress property demand, make homebuilding unaffordable to Gen X and millennials, burden business (which will pass part of the tax burden to their products and services cost) and thus inflationary. It will add to the infamous tagging of Bohol as “an expensive to go to place” and become a bit business unfriendly.
LGUs must balance their appetite to increase their projects and to further tax people to get some of their sources of funds by exercises like this. Anyhow, the Mandanas Ruling had effectively raised the s LGUs share of the national taxation to the highest ever level in fiscal history.
Besides as RPT (property tax) ratio to GDP (Gross Domestic Product), we are at par to a comparable neighbor Thailand at 0.5%. We should not try to be over ambitious as to reach the higher percentages of more advanced neighbors whose business and individuals can afford higher taxes like Singapore: 2% of GDP, Japan 2.5% and South Korea 3.0%.
Fairness and reason should prevail during the December 22 public hearing. Speak your mind or forever let others decide for you.
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