From Manuel Quezon III's blog, a timeline of this whole brouhaha.
Most interesting is Usec Sales' latest argument for taxing books, that "there really is a provision for a 1% duty on imported books (”educational, cultural, etc.”) that are for sale and for profit" found in Sec. 105 of the Tariffs and Customs Code.
To which the Book Development Association of the Philippines replied with a document, here reproduced in full:Position Paper of the Book Development Association of the Philippines Re: Tax and Duty Free Importation of ...
Which basically all boils down to "the Department of Finance is breaking international and its own laws imposing this tax, the National Book Development Board has the sole authority to determine when and how and if books are to be taxed and anyway Republic Act No. 8047 is the last word on this subject."
And so matters stand. So far.
Postscript: on NPR today two members of the Obama transition team discussed his possible choice to replace Justice Souter, and, paraphrasing roughly what they said, it was significant that Obama mentioned the word 'empathy' as one of the qualities he's looking for in a new Supreme Court justice.
In effect, he's looking for someone who would look not at the letter of the law, but the intent for which the law was enacted, and its overall impact on people.
An interesting idea! If, say, Usec Sales used such a radical principle to weigh the pros and cons of her proposal to apply levies on book importation (Proposal? It's fait accompli, a done deal; like the Somali pirates, she's boarded the ship and is shaking down the crew), Sales in effect would be weighing the increase of a few million pesos in revenues (I mean, how big is the book industry in the Philippines, anyway? Certainly not bigger than the TV industry!) against the growth and development of the country's collective intellect.
A couple of pesos against a country's cultural and educational future. Does not take a genius, I think, to figure that out.