Centenarian Act vetoed for being ‘oppressive’
About 7,000 Filipinos aged 100 years old and above will have to hang on a little bit longer before they get additional benefits after President Aquino vetoed the proposed Centenarian Act that would have earned them each a P100,000 bonus, plus discounts on purchases.
Aquino vetoed the measure for being “excessive (and) unreasonable” and for being “patently oppressive.”
What caught the attention of the President was a provision in the bill proposing a whopping 75-percent discount on goods and services for the centenarians.
The 75-percent discount would not be tax deductible for business owners and the President said this “exceeds the usual mark-up rate of most businesses and will obliterate profit margins and result in capital loss.”
Estimates of the National Statistics Office put at 7,300 the number of Filipinos aged 100 and above. United Nations figures put the number of centenarians in the world at 455,000 in 2009 and their number was expected to rise to 4.1 million by 2050.
Average life expectancy in the Philippines is 67 years for men and 73 for women, according to government estimates.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s main author, was quick to assign the blame on the Senate version principally authored by Sen. Francis Pangilinan that jacked up the discount to 75 percent from the 50 percent in the House version.
The vetoed bill also called for a cash gift of P100,000 to all Filipinos who have reached the age of 100 years or more.
But hope is not lost for the centenarians as the President has not objected to Congress refiling the measure in the 16th Congress.
“They should assess this in case the proponents of the bill want it refiled because the intent of the law is certainly very laudable,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told a news briefing on Tuesday.
“What the veto zeroed in on was the 75 percent (which) would eat into the profit margins of retail and business owners,” Valte said.
Valte also said the proposed act did not provide for a tax credit or a tax deduction scheme for establishments to recover the said amount.
“What would happen is businessmen would bear the 75-percent burden. They can’t claim this as a tax deduction,” she said. In short, the 75-percent discount would not be tax-deductible.
Lagman blamed “bill grabber” Pangilinan for the killer provision.
“Bill grabbers are sometimes the bane of legislation because instead of assuring the enactment of a measure into law, they prejudice the final approval of a bill by the President,” Lagman said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, more centenarians will be gone without getting the legislated benefits,” Lagman said.
According to Lagman, Pangilinan copied the House version of the bill but added as his own amendment and input the non-tax-deductible 75-percent discount.
The House version provides for a 50-percent discount as an exception to the value added tax and as an amendment to the Senior Citizens Act, and does not remove the tax credit in favor of the businesses providing these, Lagman added.
The Senate approved the Pangilinan version shortly before Congress recessed for the elections, which was why the House was constrained to adopt the Senate version to do away with the need for a bicameral conference committee, Lagman said.
Lagman said on the phone that many centenarians had been waiting for the measure to become a law ever since it was passed in the House in March last year.
He said he received about five calls a day from relatives of 100-year-old Filipinos following up on the measure—and sometimes reporting the sad news that another centenarian had passed away.
With the President’s veto, the centenarians would have to hang on just a bit longer.
Lagman said his son and namesake, Edcel Lagman Jr., the newly elected Albay representative, would take up the cause when Congress convenes in July, and refile the original House version.
He said he saw the President’s point in rejecting the measure because of the 75-percent discount because even if the centenarians were only a small portion of the population, the discount could still adversely affect businesses.
Rare to be a hundred
There was also the concern it could be subject to abuse.
In filing the centenarian bill, Lagman had said it was very rare for Filipinos to reach the ripe, old age of 100.
“Living to be a centenarian, or three decades past the life expectancy, is therefore an achievement and a distinction worthy of emulation and public recognition,” he said.
Such longevity, Lagman said, “demands immense self-discipline.”
Aquino spelled out his reasons for thumbing down the bill in his veto message to Congress dated May 15.
“The 75-percent discount exceeds the usual mark-up of most businesses and will obliterate profit margins and result in capital loss. The provision granting the exorbitant discount may thus be subjected to a constitutional challenge from both retailers and service providers,” Aquino said.
“Furthermore, the 75-percent discount is patently oppressive as it will force retailers and service providers to exclusively bear the income loss as the proposed measure does not provide for a tax deduction to recover the said discount.”—With Inquirer Research
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