Makabayan Bloc asks Supreme Court to quash tax reform law

The Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives has filed a petition before the Supreme Court on Thursday to declare the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) unconstitutional.

In a statement, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao asked the SC to “void the invalid House ratification and the overwhelmingly regressive TRAIN law.”

The group accused the House of violating the 1987 Philippine Constitution and its own rules when it ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee Report of the TRAIN bill “without a quorum and without a vote” on December 13, 2017.

In a 33-page petition, the militant representatives want the SC to declare Republic Act 10963 or the TRAIN Law as “unconstitutional” and prohibit the respondents – President Rodrigo R. Duterte, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Jr. – from implementing the tax reform program.

It added the Makabayan bloc representatives were not recognized whey they raised their strong objections to the proposed measure.

The group also accused President Rodrigo R. Duterte of “grave abuse of discretion” for signing the tax reform measures last December 19, even without a “valid ratification.”

The Makabayan bloc explained that what happened in the House was “not how its own Rules mandates the conduct of business in general and the ratification of a bicameral conference committee report in particular should be done.”

It added the House took only three minutes to ratify the tax reform measure as opposed to the Senate’s 1 hour and 42 minutes.

The group said the petition should send a strong message to the leaders of Congress to not just pass a law “without a quorum and without a vote; that they have to strictly observe the Constitution, and, in particular the rules on ratification.”

Tinio said “barely 10 people on the floor” out of 297 representatives were present.

The Makabayan bloc said it hopes the SC would take “judicial notice of an event which occurred simultaneously with the invalid ratification, which, aside from the lateness of the hour, could explain the lack of warm bodies on the floor: the Christmas party of the PDP Laban.”

It added that heads of the “supermajority” in Congress, including Speaker Alvarez and other members of the House attended a “benefit dinner for Marawi City” at the posh Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City, which was attended by over 1,000 members of the PDP Laban.

“We will vigorously pursue the fight for substantial and bigger income tax reduction for the workers and employees,” the group said.

The petitioners said the benefits of the tax reform measure will not be felt due to the inflationary effects on oil, coal, power, and other commodities and services.

In press briefing in Malacañang on January 8, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the tax reform will correct the unfair, complex, and inefficient tax system.

“Package one corrects the longstanding inequality of the tax system, thereby giving relief to 99% of taxpayers after 20 years of non-adjustment while broadening the tax base,” he said.

Under the TRAIN, he explained workers can save an additional P21,000 from their P250,000 annual salaries while a tax rate of 20% will be imposed on the excess of P250,000 for workers whose income ranges from P250,000 to P400,000.

He added the first P90,000 of the 13th month pay and other bonuses are exempt from income tax.

He said 99 percent of taxpayers will pay less income taxes while the top 1 percent with taxable income above P8 million will pay more.

For annual income between P400,000 and P800, he said the tax rate is 25 percent of the excess over P400,000 thousand plus P300,000; annual income between P800,000 and P2 million, tax rate is 30 percent of the excess over P800,000 plus P130,000; 32 percent of the excess over P2 million plus a tax of P490,000 for workers whose income ranges between P2 million and P8 million; and workers who earn P8 million and above will be subject to a higher tax rate of 35 percent of the excess plus P2.410 million. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)