MANILA, Philippines — A progressive party-list lawmaker on Wednesday downplayed as “misleading” and “deceptive” the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) defense that the government’s P200 financial aid was enough to guard poor Filipino families against the inflationary impacts of the Duterte administration’s tax reform program.
The OSG earlier filed before the Supreme Court (SC) its 74-page consolidated comment against two petitions challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 10963, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.
The OSG, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, asked the High Court to scrap the petitions filed by the House Makabayan opposition bloc and Laban Konsyumer Inc., which urged the tribunal to halt the implementation of TRAIN Law.
Calida claimed that while the TRAIN Law imposed higher excise taxes on oil, coal, sugary drinks, cigarettes and vehicles and a minimal increase in electricity rates, its effect on ordinary people would be minimal.
Calida also argued that the law’s three-year unconditional cash transfer to the “poorest of the poor,” was enough to help ease out the effects of TRAIN Law.
Section 81 of the TRAIN Act states that beneficiaries would receive P200 per month for the first year and will then get P300 for the second and third year.
“[The] petitioners’ opinion that the TRAIN law will unduly burden the poor is inaccurate. The [financial assistance] for the poorest of the poor and the increase in take-home pay for wage earners will more than compensate them for the price increase that may be brought about by the TRAIN law,” Calida argued.
“To reiterate, the TRAIN law is not arbitrary, oppressive, and confiscatory, and does not result in the deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” he insisted.
But Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate dismissed Calida’s arguments as “misleading and deceptive.”
“Misleading and deceptive ‘yung claims na ‘yan. Hindi nito sinasabi na sa totoo naman ‘yung mga may-ari ng industriyang ito ay ang mga mayayaman pero at the end of the day, pinapasa nila as cost of production itong dagdag buwis sa diesel (The claims are misleading deceptive. It did not state here that the rich own these industries who offset the tax by passing it off as added cost of production,” Zarate said.
If the TRAIN Law was for the poor, he said, it should explain why inflation in the first quarter alone was already 4.7 percent.
The militant lawmaker said the minimum wage earners would not benefit from the law. He warned that as the next packages of the tax reform program would be enacted, the burden passed onto the Filipino people would also worsen.
“The regressive TRAIN law should be repealed,” Zarate said.
Zarate said he would file a bill which would propose a higher income tax exemption than the current P250,000, and would repeal “regressive” taxes under the Train Law.
The congressman said that following TRAIN’s implementation in January, the Department of Economic Research of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) bared that the April inflation may reach 4.7 percent while, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on April 5, reported an inflation rate of 4.3 percent in March, higher from the revised 3.8 percent in February.
The Train Law imposes higher excise taxes on fuel products, cars, tobacco, and sugar-sweetened beverage, but it also increased the tax-free cap of 13th month pay and other bonuses to P90,000, as well as the tax income exemption to P250,000.
The Comprehensive Tax Reform Program’s Package 2 or “Train 2” meanwhile, aims to gradually lower corporate income tax rate from 30 to 25 percent while modernizing incentives for companies. (davaotoday.com)