Senators shun top post in tax committee due to political stigma

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Senate of the Philippines

THERE are still no takers for chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means due to the “stigma” attached to tax measures, Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told reporters on Wednesday.

Mr. Zubiri said Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III might have to appoint a senator to the post, after Senator Pia S. Cayetano, whom he initially asked, expressed no interest in the committee.

Walang senador na gustong maging chairman ng Ways and Means. Pinamimigay na namin ‘yung committee, ayaw tanggapin ng aming mga kasamahan, so the Senate President may have to appoint somebody (No senator wants to be Ways and Means committee chairman. We are practically giving away the post but none of our peers wants it),” Mr. Zubiri said.

“Maybe because ‘yun nga, natatakot din sila na may stigma pagdating sa taxes (Maybe precisely because senators are afraid of the political stigma attached to tax measures).”

Lawmakers looking at running for reelection will be preparing for the 2022 national polls.

Just last Monday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said he is confident that remaining tax reforms will hurdle the 18th Congress, noting that reelectionist lawmakers who supported the first packages managed to win the May 13 mid-term polls. Mr. Dominguez cited as example Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara and Albay 2nd district Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who were both reelected despite sponsoring Republic Act No. 10963 which slashed personal income tax rates but increased or added levies to several goods and services besides.

Lawmakers have become reluctant backing tax measures, drawing from the experience of current Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto, who lost in the 2007 senatorial race after sponsoring the increase of value added tax to 12% from 10%.

The Ways and Means body had been chaired by Mr. Angara, who is poised to head the Finance committee when the 18th Congress opens on July 22.

“Actually, I spoke to Senator Pia. She says it’s not her priority. She says she has other advocacies, but if asked by the Senate President, no choice daw siya, but that’s not her core competence. Personally, sabi niya hindi niya gusto (she said she doesn’t want it),” Mr. Zubiri said, adding that the Senate will form a new special standing committee on sustainable development, which Ms. Cayetano will head.

The Ways and Means committee will be tackling proposals to reduce the corporate income tax rate gradually to 20% by 2029 from 30% currently, to streamline fiscal incentives by making them performance-based and time-bound and by removing redundant ones, to simplify taxes on financial instruments, to centralize real property valuation and assessment, as well as to increase the government’s share in mining revenues and excise taxes imposed on alcohol products.

Also enacted recently was RA 11213, which grants estate tax amnesty and amnesty on delinquent accounts that remained unpaid after being given final assessment; while the proposed gradual increase in excise tax on tobacco products to P60 per pack by 2023 from P35 currently awaits President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature.

Mr. Zubiri said neophyte Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go — who had been a long-time aide to Mr. Duterte — will be the chamber’s link to Malacañang “para wala nang ma-vi-veto na bills (so that no more bills will be vetoed).” — Charmaine A. Tadalan