Taxpayers’ Revolt in the Making?

Is there a taxpayers’ revolt in the offing? There is, if you ask Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat.com

Is there a taxpayers’ revolt in the offing? There is, if you ask Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Renato Reyes, Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance).

Casiño and Reyes said this in a news conference Jan. 31 in Quezon City – four days after House Bill No. 3555, raising the value-added tax (VAT) rate from 10 percent to 12 percent, was passed at dawn.

The increase in VAT rates is one of the revenue measures being pushed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo supposedly to raise additional revenues and pull the country out of the fiscal crisis that hit it last year.

The VAT increase has been condemned by various quarters, including cause-oriented groups and opposition legislators, as they raised concerns that it would severely affect the poor and cause a sharp increase in the prices of goods and services.

Casiño said that given Macapagal-Arroyo’s low popularity rating, “A taxpayers’ revolt…and staged people’s strikes can easily cripple the administration.”

The results of a December survey by the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation revealed that 79.89 percent of the respondents rated Macapagal-Arroyo’s performance as “unsatisfactory.” The same survey also showed 74.11 percent of the respondents opposed to a VAT increase.

Walkout, Jan. 27

Casiño was among 11 congressmen who walked out of the House in protest against what has been described as a “railroading” of HB 3555. The others are: Reps. Satur Ocampo and Joel Virador (Bayan Muna), Crispin Beltran and Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis or Toiling Masses), Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party or GWP), Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero (1D Sorsogon, Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC) Antonio Serapio (2D Valenzuela City, NPC); Juan Eduardo Angara of Aurora, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP, Democratic Filipinos’ Fight), Darlene Antonino-Custodio (1D South Cotabato, NPC), Agapito Aquino (2D Makati City, LDP), Joaquin Chipeco of the second district of Laguna, Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP or Coalition of United Filipinos), Allan Peter Cayetano (Pateros-Taguig, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats); Vincent Crisologo (1D Makati City, LDP), Teofisto Guingona III (2D Bukidnon, LDP), Mujiv Hataman (Anak Mindanao or Children of Mindanao), Renato Magtubo (Partido ng Manggagawa or PM, Worker’s Party), Oscar Malapitan (1D Kalookan City, LDP), Imee Marcos (2D Ilocos Norte, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or KBL, New Society Movement),  Florencio Noel of the Samar/Leyte party-list group An Waray (literally, Those Who Have Nothing), and Benjamin Agarao (4D Laguna, LDP).

Maza had earlier resigned from the House Committee on Ways and Means over what she described as “total disregard of due process” in the committee-level approval of HB 3555.

The Senate counterpart of HB 3555 is now being deliberated upon.

Mobilizations

Meanwhile, cause-oriented groups and legislators opposed to a VAT increase have been holding various mobilizations.

In the afternoon of the legislators’ walkout, more than 200 members of Bayan staged an indignation rally at the Welcome Rotonda, the boundary between Manila and Quezon City. “The turnout was fine, considering that the call for a mobilization was made just earlier that same day,” said Dani Beltran, director of Bayan’s Popular Struggles Commission.

The rally was followed four days later by two other mobilizations in Quezon City, one by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May First Movement) and another by the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).

Bayan has recently launched a broad campaign against the VAT increase, dubbed Kontra-KulimVAT – a play on the Filipino word kulimbat or theft and the VAT acronym.

The various sectoral groups under Bayan are also holding consultations with senators in an effort to convince them to vote against the VAT increase bill.

Among the senators seen to provide a swing vote are Pia Cayetano, Ralph Recto, and Ramon Revilla, Jr. Three other senators have also threatened to oppose the VAT increase: Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Manny Villar, and Joker Arroyo.

In a phone interview with Bulatlat, Reyes said that Bayan also encourages the people to write directly to the senators and initiate signature campaigns.

“We must use all possible means to convince our senators to oppose a VAT increase,” he said.

Bayan and the broad-based Alliance of Concerned Citizens Opposed to Unjust New Taxes (ACCOUNT) are gearing for a National Day of Protest on Feb. 16. Bulatlat

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