4 presidentiables on FOI, Cha-cha, corruption, tax reform
The presidential forum hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry provided a glance of the differing stance of the four leading presidential aspirants in 2016.
INQUIRER.net gives a cursory look at how the four presidential aspirants– Vice President Jejomar Binay, Mar Roxas, Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor-Santiago–express their opinions on the issues surrounding their presidency bid.
Binay said he supports the move to reform the taxation system and lower the personal and corporate income tax. He said the Philippines has one of the highest income tax returns.
“We are the second highest sa income tax returns. Ang nangyayari diyan, you are depriving our kababayans the money they can consume. Kasi mataas ang income tax returns. Ang ating income tax returns in 32 per cent na. Number 2 is it has come to a point, na yung those receiving P500,000 ay kaparehas na lamang ng binabayaran ng mga well-to-do, ng mga millionaires,” Binay said.
Santiago for her part also said the Philippine tax system is outdated and it is about time this should be updated to reflect the inflation of the country.
“The Philippine tax system is 20 years old. It needs to be overhauled. But major tax reforms are best done at the start of each administration when the President has the clear mandate from the voters. I promise to reform it within six months of my administration,” Santiago said.
Poe also said it is time to change the taxation system to give the public more savings.
“This would benefit a lot of our countrymen. We’re one of the highest tax countries in Asia. government has spent P600 billion since 2011 and reducing taxes would only take away P30 billion. I don’t think any programs in government would be cut because of this,” Poe said.
As for Roxas, the election season is not the time to discuss the issue of lowering income taxes.
Skeptic about decreasing tax rates, Roxas thinks that reducing income tax will also lead to reduction of service, the improvement of infrastructures and the economy people are benefitting from.
But as a senator in 2004, Roxas was among the proponents of the bill reducing tax and exempting minimum wage earners from tax.
Freedom of information
Of the four candidates, only Poe and Santiago specifically mentioned freedom of information (FOI) bill as a priority legislation in their presidency.
Poe said she sponsored the FOI bill which passed on third reading in the Senate.
“In the first 100 days in office, we would prompt Congress for bills to be passed with dispatch. First is the freedom of information bill, which I have sponsored and debated on in the Senate,” Poe said.
Santiago said her first act as president is to pass the FOI bill.
“When elected, my first act is to have the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) enacted into law. This is an important tool to promote public accountability,” Santiago said.
“The Freedom of Information bill deserves to be passed first if only to enhance transparency and public accountability. The posting of information on the official websites is not a substitute for the FOI bill,” she added.
Of the four candidates, only Roxas said there was no need to amend the constitution.
Binay, Poe and Santiago said they are open to amending the charter to ease foreign restrictions in the economy, particularly on Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s proposal to amend the charter by inserting the “unless otherwise provided for by law” in the constitution’s economic provisions.
“I fully support that move of Speaker Belmonte; I’ve been very consistent in every fora that I’ve been attending. I’ve been saying that it’s high time that we have to amend our constitution because it’s not attuned to the times anymore. One way of attracting foreign investors and we really need a lot of investors, an amendment of the constitution in order to admit foreign investors especially for the major sectors of our economy will certainly be a boost to our economy,” Binay said.
“The first best solution is to amend the restrictive provisions in the Philippine Constitution which have discouraged the entry of foreign investors into the country. Compared to its ASEAN-6 counterparts, the Philippines has attracted the least Foreign Direct Investments. That is proof enough that we are lagging behind,” Santiago said.
Santiago said she would be wary though on politicians who might use charter change at their “mercy.”
Poe said the constitution has to be amended to adjust with the changing economic landscape.
“The Constitution is a living and breathing document. It has to do with the times. I think their proposals for economic changes, we should certainly debate on it because I think of the things we need to encourage is foreign direct investment,” Poe said.
“There’s some very tight regulations in the ease of doing this in the country,” she added.
But for Roxas changing the constitution would not fix the problem, especially in attracting more Foreign Direct Investments.
“Changing the constitution will not fix the problem that exporters have with unpaid tax, vat tax credits. They paid value added tax (VAT) on their raw materials that come in and when they re-export the product. It takes them months-if not years- to take, to receive the VAT refund,” he said.
“That means that that product, the cost of that product is much more expensive because in effect, they are money tied up in the VAT pre-payments that they made. What do you think the report to the home office is by the country manager? That’s what holds back foreign direct investment in our country,” Roxas added.
Roxas and the administration are agnostic when it comes to dealing with corrupt officials—even with their allies.
“We want to eliminate corruption irrespective of what the person’s chaleco is wearing. We are agnostic. We don’t look at their affiliation so long as its corruption, we are against it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Binay, the political archrival of Roxas, said poverty, not corruption, is the moral problem that he would fight if he wins as president of the country.
The vice president is charged with slew of corruption charges and is facing graft indictment before the Ombudsman for allegedly rigging the procurement for the design and construction of the P2.28 billion Makati City Hall Building II, deemed the country’s priciest car park building.
Besides the allegedly overpriced car park building, Binay faces four other plunder and graft complaints before the Ombudsman over the alleged anomalies involving the Makati Science High School Building, the University of Makati, a Fort Bonifacio property, and over an allegedly anomalous land deal between the Alphaland and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, where Binay is long-running President. Binay decried political harassment by his accusers. TVJ