Sure, the Great Book Blockade is over, but the price of peace (or duty-free books in this case) is eternal vigilance–let’s not forget that even before the GBB, there were already people being taxed when they sought to bring books from abroad into the country. If you’ll recall, Chingbee Cruz shared her own experience here:
I’d heard that books were tax-exempt but didn’t know enough to have any conviction in making that argument, and so all I really wanted to do then was pay the right amount, official receipt and all. As I was fishing my hard-earned thousands of pesos out my wallet, I told CD that he made it very hard for people like me not to be corrupt. That his dramatic tossing of documents and convoluted explanations to my questions made it clear that he was discouraging me from doing the right thing. (When I asked him to please explain why his clerks were handing out tiny pieces of paper with the wrong tax amount for cheaper, resibo-less claiming of packages, he said he wasn’t at liberty to talk about such things. WTF?) Of course, he had nothing to say to all this. The only time he had something to say was when I mentioned that maybe next time I should keep my purchases to fifty dollars or less so I wouldn’t be charged taxes. “Ikaw bahala,” he said. “Kung may paraan ba lumusot sa rules, e, di ba’t di gamitin?” To which I quickly pointed out, short of biting his head off, that no, I wouldn’t be breaking any rule to begin with if I did my theoretical fifty-dollars-or-below purchase, and so no, I wouldn’t be getting away with anything.
UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen had a similar experience (as Chingbee narrates here) and RockEd Philippines has been trying to gather proof of similar cases of illegal taxation–receipts, or even simple narrations of the events–so that Atty. Leonen or another able lawyer might be able to file the appropriate legal suit. However, over at Twitter, in response to a query from @MLQ3, @gangbadoy of RockEd told me that people have stopped emailing such receipts and stories since the GBB was lifted.
[More after the cut]
As a result, I’d like to amplify and reiterate Gang’s plea that if you or someone you know has experienced being illegally taxed (whether by error, negligence or an actual extortion) for bringing books into the Philippines, please send your stories (and perhaps copies of receipts or any other form of proof you may have–hidden cam videos anyone?) to RockEd at info[at]rockedphilippines.org or contact them via these numbers:
Tel. No.: (632) 709-0792
Mobile: (63916) 409-2378
Telefax: (632) 376-2184
Remember guys, books aren’t free and clear just because the GBB is over… you can be sure that if we don’t prove to be vigilant, little infractions that slip through the cracks will embolden those who see books as just another commodity, and then before you know it, one day we’ll wake up and experience a glitch in the matrix (or groundhog day for the youth-challenged).
In taxation, just as with health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.