Not worth continuing

RUNNING on a platform of continuity, Liberal Party candidate Manuel Roxas II confirmed this week that he is ready to carry over all the worst possible aspects of his political patron’s administration into his own if he is elected president in 2016.

Callousness, arrogance and ineptitude spring to mind.

Asked to comment this week on bills in Congress to lower income taxes rates, Roxas made it abundantly clear that like President Benigno Aquino III, he cares very little for hardworking wage earners from the low- and middle-income classes, who bare an inordinate share of the tax burden.

Filipino workers already pay the highest income taxes in the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the Tax Management Association of the Philippines, one of 18 large business groups that have petitioned President Aquino to reconsider his opposition to lowering the tax rates.

But in dismissing out of hand the two bills pending in Congress, Roxas failed to show any empathy for the pain felt by millions of middle-class wage earners who see one-third of their salaries go to the government—for very little in return by way of efficient public services or infrastructure.

After almost six years in power, this administration has failed miserably in providing the most basic of public services, such as keeping the trains running on time and the traffic moving on our streets beyond first gear. Yet, candidate Roxas does not see the relationship between taxes and public service, and reduces the issue to politics.

“It’s easy for us to grandstand, for us to say that we should not collect taxes, that taxes should be zeroed-in. But what are the programs that will be sacrificed?” he said.

The response showed not only Roxas’ arrogance and callousness, but also his readiness to bend the truth.

For the record, candidate Roxas needs to be reminded that no one is suggesting that taxes not be collected or “zeroed-in,” whatever that means. In fact, if he were not as closed-minded as the President, he would realize that lowering the tax rates could broaden the tax base by encouraging more people to pay their taxes.

“How many youths will not have their classrooms? How many of our countrymen will not benefit from PhilHealth? How many will be slashed from the 4Ps [the government’s dole program]?” Roxas continued.

The argument is nonsensical to all but the most gullible.

The 4Ps program is a questionable dole program that sucks up tens of billions of pesos in taxpayer money every year only to reward joblessness and encourage mendicancy. We should not be worried about slashing from the 4Ps, we should rejoice—because the money could be better spent on sustainable programs that actually help the poor by giving them jobs.

Also by the Finance Department’s own estimates, the government would lose only about P30 billion in tax revenues if either of the tax bills were passed. In contrast, this administration has been underspending to the tune of P500 billion from 2011 to 2014 or an average of P125 billion a year. Those classrooms and PhilHealth benefits that candidate Roxas refers to could easily be covered by the money the Aquino administration did not spend.

Finally, candidate Roxas holds out the promise of “a responsible” review of all taxes and impositions of the government.

Such a review, however, must begin with a clear acknowledgement that for far too long, our low- and middle-income wage earners have been bearing an unfair burden, and that is they deserve some relief. Candidate Roxas does not even deign to make such an acknowledgment.

Some things in this world are worth continuing; this administration’s insensitivity and ineptitude clearly are not.

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