THE OFFICE of the Solicitor-General (OSG) has petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss for lack of merit the petitions seeking to nullify Republic Act (RA) No. 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law passed on Dec. 19 last year.
The 74-page consolidated comment dated April 19 and released to media on Monday was in response to the separate Petitions for Certiorari by consumer watchdog group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (Laban) and a coalition composed of Makabayan bloc representatives Antonio L. Tinio, Carlos Isagana T. Zarate, and Ariel Ka-Ayik B. Casilao which, according to the comment, “(claimed) that grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction attended the passage of the TRAIN law.”
Laban argued that, with regards to the imposition of excise taxes on fuel products like diesel and coal, the TRAIN Law was enacted in violation of Sections 16(2) and 27, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution — constitutional provisions on the legislative functions of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Tinio’s petition, on the other hand, claimed the TRAIN Law was in violation of Section 1, Article III on the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and Section 28, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution on the required quorum in the House.
The OSG argued that “the TRAIN Law was validly passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.”
“(F)rom a total of two hundred ninety-five (295) House Members, two hundred thirty-two (232) members responded to the roll call,” the OSG said. “This number is more than the majority needed to constitute a quorum, a majority being a number greater than half of the total.”
The petition said further: “When the TRAIN bill was presented to the President, it contained the signatures of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III” and that “it also contained the certification of the Secretaries of both Houses that it was passed.”
“The President, therefore, was correct in signing the TRAIN bill into law,” it also said.
OSG said the petitions “should be dismissed outright as they suffer from procedural infirmaties (sic),” such as “improperly (availing) of a special civil action for certiorari,” “(violating) the principle of hierarchy of courts,” and for “(failing) to show an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power,” among others.
On the matter of the added tax to fuel products, the OSG said, “the increase in oil excise taxes is imbued with revenue, regulatory, and remedial policy considerations” and that “the provision on the increase of excise tax on coal is not a rider because it is consistent with Section 24, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and Section 83, Rule XXIX of the Rules of the Senate.”
“The purpose of the TRAIN Law is to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality for the general welfare of the people,” the OSG said, adding that “the TRAIN Law does not violate the due process clause” and “does not violate the equal protection clause.”
The OSG also urged the court to “deny the application for issuance of a temporary restraining order, writ or preliminary injunction, and/or status quo ante order” as sought by the petitions against the law. — Dane Angelo M. Enerio