A MILITANT youth group on Sunday lambasted Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda and dared him to take a closer look at government statistics before mouthing off about how the government was compassionate about the people.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said official government statistics show that the prices of basic commodities such as rice—as well as for water and rent—have shot up nationwide but income taxes have remained at a high of 32 percent, while the daily minimum wage has been stuck at P456, belying Lacierda’s assertion that the government looked out for Filipinos, particularly the poor.
Citing figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Hicap said prices of rice increased about 17 to 29 percent from 2010 to 2014.
The consumer price index based on 2006 prices showed rentals in January 2012 were up 113.7 percent for the whole country, 112.8 percent for the National Capital Region and 114.1 percent outside Metro Manila.
In September 2015, he said, rental rates further shot up to 125.5 percent nationwide, 122.1 percent for NCR, and 127.3 percent outside NCR.
The cost of water and other related services rose 146.5 percent and 185.8 percent respectively in 2012, and 158.4 percent and 199.7 percent respectively in September 2015.
“You tell Lacierda and President Aquino, where is the compassion there?” Hicap said.
Lacierda on Saturday lashed out at senatorial bet and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and his cousin, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for saying that the Aquino administration lacks compassion for Filipinos, who are among the most heavily taxed people in Southeast Asia, yet who suffer substandard public services.
“They should never, ever say that the government has no heart, that the government has no malasakit [compassion],” Lacierda said in an interview on government-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“In the six years of our government, everything will be done to help those who are at the fringes of society,” he said, adding that opposition leaders were only making political appeals for votes in next year’s elections.
Marcos, the son of former President Ferdinand Marcos, is running for vice president while Romualdez, the son of former Ambassador Benjamin Romualdez, is seeking his first term in the Senate.
Lacierda hit Marcos and Romualdez for claiming that the Aquino administration does not want to push a tax cut bill in Congress because they don’t care about the sufferings of Filipinos.
Hicap on Sunday hit Lacierda and said the “inclusive growth” and ratings upgrade that the government had been boasting about were empty slogans, because grassroots Filipinos have yet to feel the benefits of economic growth.
“I dare Lacierda to look at government’s own statistics and prove his claims that the government has since been doing its job to deliver social services and show malasakit. Where is malasakit in this government? Why do the people not feel it? The government’s own statistics prove Lacierda’s claims were false,” Hicap said.
On Sunday, Senator Francis Escudero said the government should make tax payment easier for small entrepreneurs and self-employed Filipinos, who comprise the second largest class of workers in the country.
“I believe all income-earning Filipinos would want to pay taxes because it makes them feel they are part of nation-building, but the high tax rates and the tedious payment system are discouraging compliance,” said Escudero, who is running for vice president next year.
“How can your regular taxi drivers or tiangge stall owners afford to pay accountants just to comply with Bureau of Internal Revenue regulations?” he said.
Escudero, who has been pushing the 16th Congress to legislate tax reforms, said the tax issue is not just about lowering tax rates but simplifying tax payment procedures to encourage compliance among micro, small and medium enterprises and self-employed professionals, who make up 99 percent of all businesses in the country.
Self-employed Filipinos—meaning, employers, own-account workers and members of cooperatives—account for 26.2 percent of all workers in the country, the second biggest labor category after wage and salaried employees, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Escudero noted that many self-employed workers do not register with the BIR because the process is so tedious. Registration alone requires mayor’s business permit, occupational permit, Occupational Tax Receipt (OTR) or Professional Tax Receipt, contract of lease, proof of registration of business name, barangay certificate and at least four other documentary requirements that may apply, depending on the nature of business.
BIR registration would compel self-employed workers to file tax returns monthly, quarterly and annually.
“We want to encourage Filipinos to become entrepreneurs. But the truth is, it is hard to start and sustain your own company here, especially if you operate only on a small-scale, which is what 99 percent of business owners do,” Escudero said.
“A small start-up or a struggling company would not hire people or put up an accounting division just to comply with BIR rules. We have to simplify our rules,” he said.