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  • Savings, ‘pork’ in 2015 budget unconstitutional        A redefinition of savings and the retention of pork barrel allocation are “two dangerous minefields” that have put into question the constitutionality of the proposed budget for next year, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said yesterday. In a privilege speech, Sen. Santiago called on her colleagues to revert to the old definition of savings and to stick to Section 91 of the general provisions requiring the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to submit a report on compliance with reportorial requirements on lump sums. She also noted that the 2015 budget is the kind of budget that administration candidates can benefit from come election time. Santiago cited how “cleverly crafted” the budget program is that “you can see through the device that it is meant to give heads of certain agencies with grassroots connections or relationships much more money for topics not necessarily covered by their mandate.” She cited in particular the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). DILG is headed by Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is widely perceived as the presidential bet of the administration Liberal Party in the 2016 national elections.
  • Congress urged to probe cigarette firm                      The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) has renewed calls for Senate and Congress to look into alleged cases of tax evasion and smuggling by homegrown cigarette firm Mighty Corp. FPI chairman Jesus Arranza urged the joint congressional oversight committee to hold another hearing to allow Mighty to answer serious allegations of fraud in its importation practices as cited in the report made by the Senate Tax Study and Research Office. The report claimed that Mighty has been undervaluing the cost of tobacco and  imported raw materials to evade customs duties and import value added tax. Mighty was also found to have imported huge volumes of tobacco leaf which it declared for import but were actually diverted to the domestic market without paying duties and taxes in violation of the Tariff and Customs Code. Sec. 3611 of the Tariff and Customs Code imposes  a fine of 5 to 8 times the revenue loss and imprisonment of 2 to 8 years.

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