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Editorial: A season of hope

It would have been such a big Christmas gift from the government, if the new law limiting the tax on year-end bonuses
received by the nations employees could take effect this year.
The Senate approved last Tuesday Senate Bill 2437, providing that Christmas and other year-end bonuses up to
P82,000 will not be taxed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). Under the law now in effect, Republic Act 7833,
enacted in 1994, the government taxes all such bonuses exceeding P30,000.

Senate President Franklin Drilon explained that there may not be enough
time to make the new law effective this year. Even if it is finally enacted by Congress and signed by President Aquino
before the year ends, he said, the Department of Finance still has to draw up the Implementing Rules and Regulations
(IRR) before it can be carried out.
It has been 20 years since the P30,000 limit was set by law. Because of inflation, the P30,000 in 1994 would be worth
around P82,000 today, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said. To
ensure that this injustice does not happen again, the new law mandates that adjusments be made every three years.
The DOF has projected that the new law will cause a revenue loss of over P30 billion. This may cause the department to
take its time drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations so that it cannot possibly take effect this year. But, it has
also been pointed out, the extra money when spent by the countrys half a million employees will be subject to sales tax
when they go shopping and marketing. This is likely to take place right this holiday season.
All the members of the Senate have come forward to be co-authors of the bill such is the support for the bill among our
senators . The House version of the bill had been approved earlier.
As Senate President Drilon has pointed out, it may be too late to make the law effective this year. But this is the
Chistmas season of hope. The hundreds of thousands of employees and their families know there is nothing they can do
if the DOF and the BIR take their sweet time drafting the needed Implementing Rules and Regulations. But how much
more merry this Christmas would be if, somehow, all the officials concerned went out of their way to make it happen.

Editorial: What happens now?

The quarantine program for the 108 Filipino UN Peacekeepers who recently returned from Liberia was set up by the
Department of Health (DOH) for a very good reason. Ebola is such a dangerous disease that kills half of those it infects
and is easily transmitted from one person to another through body contact. The DOH wanted to reassure the nation that
we have a safety program in place.

With one stroke last Sunday, however, the two highest officials of
the DOH and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) cast doubt on the need for such a strict quarantine program.
They supposedly wanted to assure the quarantined UN Peacekeepers that they are safe and that they should not feel
stigmatized. Thus acting Secretary of Health Jeanette Garin and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. met with
the quarantined soldiers on Caballo island face to face, without any protective suits.
Malacanang was quick to defend the actions of Secretary Garin and General Catapang, saying that they did not violate
World Health Organization (WHO) protocols on Ebola. The WHO protocols thus far deal only with the training of
healthcare teams, transport of patients, a surgical checklist, operating room personal protection equipment, technical
considerations in surgical operations, doffing protective attire, specimen and waste management, steps to take upon
exposure to a patients body fluids, and the safe burial of Ebola victims.
There was indeed no violation of WHO protocols, for the ones it has already issued cover only cases involving Ebola
patients. There are no WHO protocols on people simply returning from West Africa. The quarantine prescribed by our
DOH was just our own precaution. It may have been an over-reaction to the Ebola scare following those early reports of
deaths of doctors who had come into contact with patients in West Africa.
The president of the Philippine College of Physicians, Dr. Anthony Leachon, however, said quarantine protocols were
breached. The quarantine the state-enforced isolation was drawn up to prevent the possible spread of a highly
communicable and contagious disease, he said.
What happens now? Shall we lift the quarantine as it is not being enforced anyway? Or will the officials concerned
admit that there has been a violation that poses a grave threat to the health of the nation?