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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Proposed law eyes tax-free hazard pay for fiscals, judges

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THE House Committee on Ways and Means has approved the tax provisions of two unnumbered substitute bills that exempt state prosecutors and other members of the judiciary from paying taxes on their hazard pay.

The first unnumbered substitute bill is  a consolidation of House Bills 7775 authored by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander Marcos, and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre; HB 1835 by Davao de Oro Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga; and HB 8364 by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

It grants the government prosecutors tax-free hazard pay.

The tax provision contained in Section 5 of the unnumbered substitute bill reads “the hazard pay is not subject to tax and nothing in the measure shall be construed to diminish, in any manner, any benefit granted to duly appointed public prosecutors under existing laws, rules and regulations, local ordinances and other issuances.”

In his explanatory note, Romualdez explained that public prosecutors play a vital role in the administration of criminal justice.

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He said the prosecutors are primary responsible for the preliminary investigation and prosecution of all criminal cases.

“They safeguard the fundamental rights of the persons involved in criminal proceedings and ensure public security. In the performance of their functions, they are assigned to investigate and prosecute cases involving national security, dangerous drugs, terrorism, and notorious criminals. As a consequence of their duties and exposure to hazardous situations, many prosecutors have received death threats, and a number of them have been killed in the line of duty,” Romualdez said.

He added that the precarious nature of the work done by prosecutors, like conducting inquest proceedings, preliminary investigation and prosecuting complex and high-profile crimes, expose them to risks and perils which should entitle them to a hazard pay.

Committee chairman Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said he subscribe that there must be some more existential philosophy that should guide the way we do our taxation.”

The Chief Prosecutors Association maintained that the hazard pay is not an income, but an expense for the protection of prosecutors. Hence, hazard pay should be tax-exempt.

Salceda’s committee also approved the tax provision of the substitute bill to HB 1836, granting hazard pay to judges of the Regional Trial Courts, the Metropolitan Trial Courts, the Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts and the Municipal Trial Courts. It was authored by Gonzaga.

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