Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How do you Perpetuate Ignorance and Poverty

Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales seems to know the very answer to this question.

At it all started with Twilight.
I am sure almost everyone knows the story behind this. But I am going to tell anyway. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight attracted a lot of readers, so the book’s importer decided to order more books to meet the rising demand. However, Twilight’s success attracted a few personas of not really wholesome characters, namely the customs officials, especially Usec. Espele Sales. In a bid to squeeze (a lot of ) money out of this bestseller, “when an examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of books, he demanded that duty be paid on it” which the Horrorable Usec did not find inconsistent at all with other previous (decades-ago) book importations.

This runs counter to the “Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of ‘educational, scientific, and cultural materials’ between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free” as well as “Philippine law RA 8047, providing for ‘the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing.”

“Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.”

Quoted from the text

Can you believe this *@#$%&? As the saying goes, the one-eyed man is king in the kingdom of the blind.

This is the stuff that horror books are made of. Undersecretary Sales and Examiner Agulan, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Good books are already very hard to procure in the Philippines, not so much with where they are sold, but their prices. Even locally published books are pricey. This alone already makes good books almost exclusively for the rich and the moneyed, discriminating against Filipinos who haven’t got a cent to spare. Filipinos who would like to enrich their lives and climb out of the hell-hole of poverty couldn’t do so because education, by conventional schooling or self-studying has become a privilege. And now, no thanks to the greedy customs officials who behave more like goons after the gold, they made learning even more obsolete.

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