Last week marked a breakthrough in one major business in our country: The lawmaking industry.
As you probably know, the bicameral conference committee was trying its best to reconcile the multitude of issues besetting the tax reform package of the motorbiking Duterte Harley, which he certified as a priority bill some six months ago. The House of Representatives already came up with its version as early as last August, while the Senate took its sweet time until the last-minute approval just a couple of weeks ago.
Reports said that the bicam committee took only a week to resolve some 75 weighty issues in the widely different versions from the two chambers. Wow! Fast!
In all likelihood, anyway, Congress would ratify soon the so-called TRAIN, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion program of this administration. The program sought to give income tax breaks to individuals, which remained stagnant in the past 20 years, and to raise some P1.3 trillion in additional revenues for the government in the next four years.
Still, our domestic lawmaking industry insisted that it only looked out for the interest of Filipinos, no matter the level of their IQs, which was the main reason why many of the lawmakers won in the elections in the first place.
Behind all the good news in the lawmaking industry last week, however, were some hidden items awfully bad for us down here.
Hardly any word was said, for instance, regarding the controversial last-minute insertion of the coal tax coming from Sen. Loren Legarda that would raise the tax some 29 times from the present P10 to P300 a metric ton, without the benefit of a single hearing in the Senate. The tax was seen to raise our electric bills by at least 48 centavos per kilowatthour—or about P96 a month for an average household using 200 kwh a month. The bicam committee approved a lower tax, but still a big increase.
Also sneaked in by the bicam committee into the final version was the huge increase in automobile excise tax.
The administration proposed a four-tier increase, with the low-priced cars such as the Toyota Vios model going up by about P11,000 and the luxury models like the Toyota Land Cruiser going up by almost P1 million.
Guess what—the bicam committee adopted the Senate version of the proposed increase in automobile excise tax. Instead of the P11,000 increase in the tax on models like the Toyota Vios, for instance, the bicam committee approved an increase of P43,000—up by about 400 percent. As for the luxury vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, the committee approved not an increase but an actual reduction, from P1.14 million to P630,000.
For the really expensive ones like the Italian sports cars, the committee gave an even bigger gift—a tax cut of more than half.
In other words, reached by the well-funded car lobby, the bicam committee approved the Senate version that punished the middle class and favored the filthy rich.
Word went around that the reason behind such a dazzling display of oligarchical partiality in the lawmaking industry was, well, the senators believed that high taxes on luxury cars would only encourage smuggling.
Imagine that —our lawmaking industry would now also be in the business of controlling crooks directly by themselves? Sooner or later they would solve other problems just by creating laws, such as eliminating jueteng and illegal drugs—plus perhaps flatulence.
Quick—somebody tell our gallant senators that smuggling was even a problem in the low-priced models.
According to car dealers, anyway, they would have to expect big drops in sales as a result of the 400-percent tax increase for the low priced models.
The models were also part of the government program called CARS, or the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy, which aimed to revive the local automotive parts industry.
That would be the legacy of this “reform” by Duterte Harley. Courtesy of the law-making industry!
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