The Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act of 2017, which amended the 1997 National Internal Revenue Code.
In an en banc decision adopted Jan. 24, the Court through Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao resolved to dismiss the two petitions questioning the law’s constitutionality.
In their petitions, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Laban Konsyumer argued that the TRAIN Act was unconstitutional because it was passed by the House of Representatives despite an alleged lack of quorum, and that its provisions which imposed excise taxes on diesel, coal, liquefied petroleum gas, and kerosene, were prohibited regressive taxes.
The petitioners in the two cases also alleged that the excise taxes were confiscatory and discriminatory against the poor and violated the Filipino people’s right to due process and equal protection of laws.
They said the TRAIN Act, which was implemented starting January 2018, imposes a heavy burden on Filipinos from low-income and poor families.
In dismissing the petitions, “the Court held that the supposed absence of a quorum was belied by the official Journal of the House of Representatives, both on the day that the TRAIN’s Bicameral Conference Report was ratified and the immediately subsequent session on Jan. 15, 2018.”
The Court said the congressional journal prevailed over the video and photographs presented by the petitioners.
The SC also said the Constitution, in its present form, does not prohibit the imposition of regressive taxes, but merely directs Congress to evolve a progressive system of taxation.
“Lastly, the Court ruled that petitioners’ contention that the provisions of the TRAIN Act are ‘anti-poor,’ was not sufficiently proven and remained largely hypothetical,” it added.
Twelve justices, led by Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, concurred with the decision. Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa dissented, while Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario was on wellness leave when the petitions were taken up.
Aside from Chief Justice Gesmundo, those who voted to dismiss the petitions were Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen and Associate Justices Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Amy C. Lazaro Javier, Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Rodil V. Zalameda, Mario V. Lopez, Samuel H. Gaerlan, Jhosep Y. Lopez, Jose Midas P. Marquez, Antonio T. Kho Jr., and Maria Filomena D. Singh.
Meanwhile, House ways and means committee chair and Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said his committee’s mandate in pursuing tax reforms is made stronger by the recent ruling of the Supreme Court.
Salceda was the principal author of the TRAIN Act during the 17th Congress.
“The Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the TRAIN Law demonstrates the Court’s commitment to upholding its usual respect for the primacy of Congress in enacting tax legislation,” Salceda said.
“If the law were voided, major increases in the take-home pay of average taxpayers would have been nullified – including the 5 percent or so increase in take-home that workers received from the TRAIN law this 2023,” Salceda said.
“Of course, we are committed to a progressive tax system. That said, this is a matter for congressional debate, not a matter for courts to decide. And the ruling affirms this,” he added.