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Consolidating Consensus, Advancing People’s Struggles and Building Alternatives
For the second time, President Aquino rejected proposals for personal income tax cuts on the basis of anxiety over the implication of a resulting P30 billion forgone revenues while completely ignoring the urgency of an updated indexation of fixed-income earners’ salaries to prices. For the Freedom from Debt Coalition, this is another clear display of Aquino’s fiscal double standard as it reveals this administration’s twisted practice of collecting more from the poor while incentivizing the rich.
Multiple burdens already weigh down ordinary workers who, amid oppressions of contractualization and casualization, struggle for daily survival on their measly wages. Indisputably, not living but “libing” (interment) wage as labor groups call it as it can barely ensure sustenance and is lightyears away from providing for a life of dignity.
These ordinary workers are now even denied of their rightful claim to whatever little enjoyment such wages can afford as they are saddled with an unjust income tax scheme that was determined 18 years ago. In 2014, the peso’s purchasing power was already at 43.8 percent or less than half of what it was in 1998, when the current personal income tax brackets were first implemented. Now, low-income earners can hardly pay even for basic goods and services while still subjected to paying the same taxes pegged at a time when the cost of living was lower than the present.
While we at the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) welcome President Aquino III’s stand against increasing the regressive Value-Added Tax, we are appalled at his reasoning against income tax cuts. He could have grabbed the opportunity to review and reduce the unjust tax burden on ordinary Filipinos, particularly the fixed-income earners, but his line of thinking immediately jumps to calculating possible revenue deficits and how this would affect the country’s credit ratings.
Aquino III does not even bother to look at existing tax rates and tax brackets that have become passé considering today’s higher cost of living compared to 1997 when the rates and brackets were last determined. He is worried over the P30 billion lost revenue if income taxes are lowered but he is at ease with billions of pesos of forgone revenues due to fiscal incentives given to private investors. Worse, he remains resolute with losing billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money to service debts that are challenged as fraudulent, useless and/or wasteful.
For 2015 alone, out of the P372.9 billion appropriation for interest payments, P187.21 million will be paid for loans spent for the Tullahan (Sixth) Road Project, the Power Sector Development Program, the Pampanga Development Flood Control, the Bohol Irrigation Phase II and the Angat Water Supply Optimization. Another USD 28.353 million will go to principal amortization of these same projects. And these are just five questionable projects; more could have been revealed had Aquino III and his allies, like Budget Secretary Butch Abad, did not block FDC’s moves for Congress to conduct an Official Audit of all Philippine debts.
What compounds the problem with payments for illegitimate debts is that they do not undergo scrutiny of Congress because the law provision on automatic appropriations for debt service remains in place and continues to undermine the people’s power of the purse.
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) is observing the World Public Services Day on June 23 by asserting the following principles and premises and calling the attention of the Aquino government:"Pera ng gobyerno ay galing sa tao. Serbisyong publiko ay tungkulin ng gobyerno. Serbisyong publiko ay hindi negosyo, ito ay karapatan ng bawa't mamayang Pilipino. Serbisyong publiko sa Pilipino, ngayon na!" ( The government’s funds are the people’s money. Public service is the government’s responsibility. Public service is not for sale, it is every Filipino’s right. Public service for the Filipinos, now!)
FDC, its members and partners, together with the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) is holding a Public Forum today, June 23, 2015 aimed at critically examining the state of public services in the country in the context of the neoliberal privatization policies of successive administrations until today, under the so-called “Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) policies and programs of the outgoing Aquino (Pnoy) government.