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What? Tax amnesty for Pacquiao?

What, tax amnesty for Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao? For heaven's sake, why? Pacquiao is a billionaire who can afford to pay, and should pay, the correct income taxes. Is this what we have come to, a billionaire tries to cheat on his taxes and he is granted tax amnesty?

The clerk or janitor or teacher earning a few thousand pesos a month, and who can hardly make both ends meet, is not allowed to escape the tax bite. They pay their taxes without complaining. And here comes Pacquiao, who earns billions of pesos and flaunts it, wanting to be treated differently, to be allowed to get away with 2.2 billion pesos (US$50 million) in unpaid taxes. What is he, another Janet Napoles? That is the surest way to make other taxpayers cheat on their taxes. That is the surest way to teach people that crime pays.

When so many Filipinos live wretched lives, Pacquiao and his family live like maharajahs, throwing crumbs to poor people. They have mansions, several expensive cars, a helicopter, and, some say, a yacht, all trademarks of the conspicuous consumption of the filthy rich. When Pacquiao went to Leyte to distribute relief goods, he came in a private plane. Wife Jinkee is rumoured to have a wall-to-wall cabinet full of signature bags each costing several thousands of pesos. If Imelda Marcos is obsessed with shoes, Jinkee is said to be obsessed with designer bags.

Manny himself walks around in all-white, three-piece suits. His mother Dionisia boasts that she has two houses. She built a new house, she said, because she has a difficult time climbing the stairs of the other one. And yet when the Bureau of Internal Revenue tried to collect taxes from her earnings as a product endorser, she shrieked to high heavens that she has no money.

Where did the money for the houses come from? the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) asked.

From son Manny, of course.

Did he or she pay the donor's tax? the BIR asked.

No answer.

The family hosts lavish parties that rival those thrown by Imelda Marcos in the old days. Recently, Dionisia Pacquiao hosted a housewarming party for her new residence that lasted until the morning. And some people want tax amnesty for this family?

Aside from the immorality of granting tax amnesty to a billionaire in the midst of the widespread suffering of the people in typhoon-devastated Eastern Visayas, it is illegal. Even President Aquino cannot grant Pacquiao tax amnesty. That is granted by an act of Congress. But if Congress does that, it would be class legislation and unconstitutional.

In fact, some congressmen led by Pacquiao ally Lito Atienza have filed a bill that would give tax exemptions to Pacquiao and other athletes who have won big purses in world athletic tournaments dating back to 10 years. Again, I ask: Why?

Allegedly because they brought honour to their country. What about the beauty queens who win in international pageants? They bring more honour to the country. And the other Filipinos who win awards in their fields of endeavour? They also bring honour to the country. As for the athletes, wouldn't they bring more honour to their country if they set the example by paying correct taxes and not trying to wiggle out of these obligations?

Where is the justice and morality of taxing the poor without mercy and at the same time exempting the rich from paying?

But we all know that including other athletes in the proposed tax-exemption measure is only to hide the fact that it is meant primarily to benefit Pacquiao. Why are these lawmakers doing this? Don't they have anything better to do? Without tax collections, where would the government get the money to pay their salaries and their lavish allowances?

The answer is that by coddling Pacquiao, they hope to gain some of the popularity that he has among the masses and, hence, more votes. Indeed, a couple of politicians position themselves beside or behind Pacquiao whenever cameras are pointed at him. By doing so, they hope to bask in the glory around the people's champ.

This idolatry of Pacquiao may be partly caused by the sportswriters who write exceedingly adoring stories about him. When Pacquiao breaks wind, it hits the sports pages. When his mother says something idiotic or Jinkee comes out in a fashionable gown, these hit the women's sections or magazines. If Pacquiao will pay the taxes he owes the BIR, he will surely hit the front pages.


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