Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Include lawmakers’ tax liabilities

Jun 25, 2022, 5:48 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

Almost everybody knows that our legislators who get millions in salaries and allowances a month, aside from pork barrel, aka projects that are included for funding by the General Appropriations Act which could run to billions of pesos, do not declare and pay for such incomes honestly.

Most legislators also do not abandon their businesses or consultancies, which augment their monthly incomes and for all we know are not declared and paid for each year.

In short, they earn tens of millions of pesos a year but only God knows if they are honestly declaring and paying the taxes due them.

It is time the Bureau of Internal Revenue run after these fats that our lawmakers are enjoying at the expense of us, small taxpayers who pay for their salaries and allowances (including travels) as well as their staff.

My attention was caught last June 24 by the column of Jarius Bondoc at the Star where he said the incoming BIR commissioner Lilia Guillermo can up the ante. Collect, as announced, not only the P23.3-billion estate tax of the family of her new boss Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos.

Sweep the table by going after tax liabilities of lawmakers as well. Pay special attention to the supermajorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. That way Guillermo can fulfill her revenue collection strategy of leadership by example.

The first 100 days are crucial. Marcos Jr. needs to prove his mettle at once. He would be inheriting a P13-trillion public debt and 25 percent unemployment and underemployment. Food, energy and transport crises loom. Solutions lie in government start-ups and “ayuda”. Those cost money – tax money, Bondoc stressed.

‘Supermajorities’

Filipinos know why lawmakers form supermajorities. It’s not only to show fealty to the president. It’s more to get what they want – pork barrels from which to take kickbacks.

The Supreme Court has outlawed pork barrels since 2013. Before then, each senator received P200 million and congressman P70 million per year to spend at will. Those used to be called Countryside Development Fund, Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program.

After illegalization, legislators resorted to “insertions” by the billions of pesos. Public funds are re-channeled from executive departments to their personal projects. Most preferred are multibillion-peso “flood control” works; that is, make-believe river dredging. The money goes straight to the legislators’ pockets.

Spotting the crooked in Congress should be easy for Guillermo. They usually are those who swap or synchronize seats with spouses, siblings, parents and offspring. A political dynasty used to target the P200-million loot. Today, each one hoards P2 billion to P20 billion. Not to forget the bureaucrats and local officials.

Corruption

Every year one-fifth of the national budget is lost to corruption, the World Bank laments. That would be P1 trillion of this year’s P5-trillion expenditure program. Guillermo can partner with the Ombudsman and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to go after the stolen wealth.

As for Marcos, Guillermo already has her work cut out for her. The BIR as far back as 1991 calculated the estate tax: P23,293,607,638. In addition was the income tax deficiency in 1985-1986 of spouses Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr. and Imelda Romualdez Marcos: P184,159,289.70. Plus, Marcos Jr.’s income tax liabilities in 1982-1985: P20,410, an issue raised in the election campaign.

The SC in 1997 deemed those collectibles final and executory.

During the recent campaign too, retired SC justice Antonio Carpio computed the estate tax to have swelled to P203.8 billion due to interests and surcharges.

Marcos Jr.’s staunchest supporters say his presidency is his one chance to redeem the family name, through actions and accomplishments.

Guillermo’s role in that cleansing is vital. Collection of taxes from perceived untouchables would make the new admin credible. Individual and corporate income earners willingly would chip in their share. Foreign and domestic investments will multiply. The government would be able to take out additional loans


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