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Backroom deals, negotiations and buy-offs. These are some of the shady practices going on in our present political environment which Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza laments as “democrazy” as he called for an electoral reform law.

“This is tantamount to no-el (no elections) in many parts of the country where voters are really left with no choice because opposing candidates cut deals instead of going through political party conventions. This is also why most candidates don’t have a platform of government or enter into a public debate to give the electorate an informed choice,” said Atienza.

Atienza, who has decided not to seek higher office, will remain with Buhay Party List where he said he has more room to speak out on issues of national concern. He has moral ascendancy since he’s one of the very few legislators who have not availed of their pork barrel funds.

“The first test of a candidate’s integrity if he’s seeking higher office is to resign, whether one is elected or appointed,” said Atienza. He challenged candidates running for higher office to have a sense of decency to resign and not seek refuge in their former positions when they lose. If serving the Filipino people is their primary concern, he urged Senators Grace Poe, Chiz Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes to vacate their Senate seats since they have declared their candidacies. Poe is running for president while the other three senators have declared their candidacies for vice president.

Does it apply to Vice President Binay who’s running for President in 2016? The answer is “no” because the Vice President cannot resign so as to preclude a  power vacuum in the event of the President’s death or resignation. The order of presidential succession: VP, Senate President, Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

Recalling Batasang Pambansa 881, an electoral reform law requiring candidates seeking higher office to resign, Lito lamented that in 1992 senators amended the law exempting legislators from BP 881 in a clearly brazen and self-serving move. A member of the Batasang Pambansa in the early 80s, Atienza recalled that the Liberal Party he belonged  to and the United Democratic Opposition of Salvador Laurel joined ranks with President Ferdinand Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan in a bipartisan move  to enact BP 881. Yes, even Marcos,  despite his vast powers, worked within the law.

Recall that Atienza, then Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources resigned his post to run for mayor of Manila even if the Supreme Court  had initially ruled  he need not resign as DENR secretary. As one of Buhay Party List three nominees (the other two are Michael Velarde Jr. the son of El Shaddai  founder Mike Velarde, and former LRT manager Mel Robles). Atienza affirmed his commitment to enact a new electoral reform law and restore some semblance of sanity in the present madcap politics.

Tobacco war

There’s a nasty war going on between two rivals in the tobacco industry. We are not going to name the two players in the tobacco trade but anyone who enjoys a good smoke knows who they are. The newcomer claimed the big multinational committed glaring violations of the Philippine Competition Act of 2015. Although the newcomer’s name means strength and huge size, it is actually the David against a Goliath in this case.

Hurt by its smaller competitor eating up 30 percent of the local tobacco market, the multinational has managed to portray its rival as engaged in “illicit trade” in a news report aired recently by a TV network.

The multinational which teamed up with a local tobacco firm must be feeling the heat from its US-based headquarters due to the decrease in revenues being remitted home. No matter whose side you’re on, the rivalry is good for our tobacco growers in the Ilocos provinces where both companies sourced their leaf to be blended with the Virginia variety.

But going back to the smaller company’s complaint against the multinational, these were some of the alleged violations of the Philippine Competition Act:.

It is prohibited under the PCA for a company in dominant position to abuse its advantage by engaging in acts that prevent the entry of a competitor and /or diminishes a competitor’s potential to grow within a free market.

The exemption to this is if the dominant player is within its legal rights, or has an advantage arising from a superior product or business acumen in sales marketing. The consumer is the final arbiter and the fact that smaller player thrived to gain 30-percent share of the market speaks volumes of the quality of its brand.

Aggrieved competitor claimed that the  intent of dominant player, which has a market share of more than 50 percent,  was to discredit its company and product by implying “illicit trade” for not using tax stamps on its cigarette packs. The smaller player denies any illegal activity and defers to the Bureau of Internal Revenue if it can be proven as a tax evader.

The not-so-mighty player might seek civil damages against the liable multinational and its local partner for what it deems as an injurious attack on its company by being singled out in the TV report. Under the Philippine Competition Act, discrediting another company’s good name and product without basis is a gross violation.

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