DAVAO CITY, Philippines — For the militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the response made by Solicitor General Jose Calida to the petition to scrap the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law is a gesture of hypocrisy.
“Calida had the gall to argue that P200 in monthly assistance for poor families would be sufficient to offset the high taxes set by TRAIN, when he himself has been living high on over P7 million in ‘excess allowances’ and earning millions more by breaking conflict-of-interest laws in dealings between his security business and the government,” said KMU chairperson Elmer Labog in a statement they issued on Saturday, June 2.
Calida has been into controversy recently, the first was on his family business who was able to secure contracts in the government, the second was when the Commission on Audit (COA), in a report, flagged his office as its high officials reportedly received excessive allowances.
Calida was recently charged for graft at the Office of the Ombudsman. The allegation was based on the multimillion contracts that the security firm owned by his wife won in three government agencies. The contracts were awarded while Calida sits as Solicitor General of the country.
In its 2017 audit report, COA said top officials of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) received an excess of P10.7 million in total allowances last year. Of the total amount, COA reported that P7.46 million went to Calida.
Despite the controversy, President Rodrigo Duterte refused to give in to calls for Calida to resign, saying that the solicitor general is performing well.
KMU also condemned Duterte “for siding with Calida and refusing to either fire or prosecute him.”
“Despite his vow to end corruption, Duterte has consistently acted to protect officials like Calida, whose allocation of millions to himself is clearly both illegal and immoral,” Labog added.
The labor group also named Calida as “one of the staunchest defenders of Duterte and his actions, regardless of the actual interests and welfare of the Filipino people” adding that the official is ignorant of the real problems of the poor Filipinos as he only sees minimal effects of the TRAIN law.
KMU described the effects of TRAIN law as “massive and devastating” especially to the millions of Filipino workers who are contractual and living on or below the minimum wage.
“The best way to truly cushion the poor from the impacts of TRAIN would be to junk the railroaded law altogether,” KMU maintained.
They also called for the passage of House Bill 7787 or the National Minimum Wage Bill now pending in Congress.
HB 7787 pushes for the daily minimum wage hike of P750.
“Filipino workers are long overdue for a substantial and genuine wage hike, as the gap between the living wage and the minimum wage has grown wider and wider over the past decades,” the group said.
KMU also urged Calida to show some delicadeza and resign and for Duterte to make good his promise to improve the lives of the Filipino people by punishing corrupt officials and enacting pro-people policies. (davaotoday.com)