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The VP race is over

It worked for Davao City Mayor Digong Duterte, who shot up to the top of the survey rankings after being targeted for demolition and incessant innuendo by no less than President Noynoy Aquino. It should work for Senator Bongbong Marcos.

It’s not as if Marcos hasn’t been singled out by Aquino for political destruction by Malacañang prior to the filing yesterday of plunder charges against the senator by a newly formed youth group. After all, Aquino converted his last people power revolution anniversary as president last month into an anti-Marcos hatefest—thus paving the way for Bongbong’s rise.

But Marcos is still currently engaged in a three-way dogfight with Senator Chiz Escudero and Rep. Leni Robredo in the vice presidential contest. The Aquino-backed filing of plunder charges against Marcos by the group iBBM, I think, is only going to give Marcos the separation he needs to handily win the battle for the second-highest post in the land.

(The people who filed charges did so independently of the administration, Malacanang quickly announced. Of course, if you believe that, you probably also believe that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who received the charges, is head of an independent constitutional body, just like it says in the Constitution.

The leader of iBBM is a certain Rafaela David, also known in political circles as the chairman of Akabayan Youth and nominee of Akbayan party-list. Akbayan is the party of chief presidential political adviser Ronald “DVD” Llamas and his closest associate, Liberal Party senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros.)

The truth of the matter is, everything Aquino touches these days turns into mud, like he has a reverse Midas touch. If I were Bongbong, I’d dash off a thank-you note to Aquino—and advise the President to attack Mar Roxas, too, just so the Palace’s declared candidate can move up a little in the ratings game.

The charge against Marcos is telling: the senator was accused of the non-bailable offense of plunder in connection with, of all things, his alleged abuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund from 2011 to 2013, based allegedly on the claims of jailed pork-barrel scam mastermind Janet “Lim” Napoles. And Napoles has already denied in the Senate and in her affidavits that Marcos was involved in the scandal—to which dozens of LP stalwarts have been linked, uncharged to this date.

So iBBM wants Marcos jailed for a non-bailable offense on trumped-up charges one month before the elections. This only means that Marcos is going to clean up in the May 9 elections.

Eat your hearts out, Chiz and Leni. Might as well concede to Bongbong right now.

* * *

While Malacañang plays politics, nobody seems to be minding the store anymore. It was true in Kidapawan, and it’s true in what is now in the practically non-existent campaign against cigarette smuggling.

The authorities aren’t only gunning down farmers in Mindanao. They’re also allowing record-breaking amounts and open selling of smuggled cigarettes in many parts of the island.

According to industry sources, contraband cigarettes that are detrimental to consumers, government revenue-generating efforts and the national economy itself are now openly being sold in thousands of stores in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, Iligan, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga Peninsula and the Cotabato region.

Smuggled cigarettes, which are subject to outright confiscation and should be destroyed outright, are sold cheap in sari-sari stores and public markets in Mindanao, at around P18 to P20 pesos per pack, since these are untaxed by the government. The cheapest price per tax-paid pack is currently P25 pesos.

The rampant smuggling of cigarettes should alarm the authorities, since this means that the government campaign to raise “sin” taxes that are earmarked for subsidies for state health campaigns are lost. But you never hear police, revenue and customs agents and officials working in cahoots with the smugglers in Mindanao confiscating any shipment of contraband tobacco products.

The smuggled and fake cigarette brands have been identified as Marlboro, Winston, Mighty, Marvels, Far Star, Fort, American Legend, Union, Navy and Gudang Garam. They are manufactured in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia and shipped directly to ports in Mindanao.

Topics: Jojo Robles , The VP race is over , Bongbong Marcos , Chiz Escudero , Leni Robredo
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