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Roxas takes a stand – that should count for something

IT was rather strange to find Secretary Mar Roxas, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (LP), agreeing on anything with Vice President Jejomar Binay, presidential candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). But in an interview with reporters last week, Roxas expressed his support for a proposal to lower the income tax rates of the country’s workers.

“You can check the records that the very first proposal to lower the income tax and increase the take-home pay was pushed by no less than Mar Roxas in 2005, when I was a senator,” he said.

Earlier, at a forum “Kapihan at Pandesal” in Quezon City, Vice President Binay called for lowering the tax rates and adjusting them to inflation. He questioned the present situation where many workers pay the same amount of taxes as millionaires.

Sen. Grace Poe, when she first announced her intention to run for president as an independent at the UP Bahay ng Alumni, laid out several points which she said she would pursue if elected. Among them was the lowering of tax rates.

Seventeen bills on the tax rates were filed in Congress and both House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon have repeatedly included them in priority lists of both chambers. The private sector through the Philippine Business Conference held last week stressed the need to reform the country’s tax system as one of its 11-point Resolution on a host of economic issues.

With such seeming unanimity, what is holding up approval of the income tax reform measure in Congress?

Drilon and Belmonte said they will make a renewed effort to convince President Aquino to support the tax reform bill. The President has thus far heeded the advice of Secretary Cesar Purisima of the Department of Finance who fears that the bill will lower the national revenue by R30 billion. They fear that this may affect the country’s standing in the eyes of the international financial community.

Against this stand, critics such as Sen. Chiz Escudero have pointed out that the administration has not been spending billions in its annual budget anyway, so it should not miss the billions that may be lost if the bill is approved. It is also a matter of justice that tax rates be made more equitable. The additional income that will go to salaried taxpayers will also ultimately boost the economy.

And the administration should not ignore the near-universal position taken by the leaders of the nation, both political and economic. The administration’s own presidential candidate Mar Roxas has made his stand on the matter.

That should count for something.