MANILA, Philippines – “Is that all you have?”
This was Solicitor General Jose Calida’s reaction to leftist lawmakers who filed a petition against the tax reform law on Thursday, January 11.
ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, and Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), filed the petition before the Supreme Court (SC), seeking to strike down the new law.
The petitioners argued that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law is invalid since the House did not follow the rules and the Constitution in ratifying the joint bicameral conference report on the Train bill on December 13, 2017, since there was no quorum and no voting was held.
“Lack of quorum of Congress. Is that all you have to nullify the Train Law? Thank you, your honors, for making my job easier,” said Calida said, who will defend the government before the High Court if the latter directs him to respond to the petition.
Tinio said Calida’s statement just showed that even the Solicitor General did not respect the Constitution. Responding to Calida on Twitter, Tinio said, "Why am I not surprised at your blatant disrespect for basic democratic principles, Mr Solicitor General?"
Why am I not surprised at your blatant disrespect for basic democratic principles, Mr. Solicitor-General? — Antonio L. Tinio (@tonchi) January 11, 2018
Section 16(2), Article VI of the Constitution states that the House of Representatives cannot do business without a quorum. That requirement is carried through the own rules of the House of Representatives.
“Mukhang malinaw talaga na hindi nirerespeto ng matataas na opisyal ng administrasyong ito ang basic requirements ng constitution mismo (It seems that it's really clear that the officials of this administration don't respect the basic requirements of the Constitution)," he said.
Casilao said it seemed that Calida and administration officials seemed to be used to breaking the law.
“Kapag ganito na ang statements ng SolGen, wala ka talagang aasahan na papabor sa interes ng taong bayan sa Train (If the SolGen makes such statements, then you really cannot depend on anyone to favor the interests of the people in relation to Train),” Casilao said.
The petitioners said they brought their case before the SC, since the law was already effective. Originally authors of a bill seeking to lower personal income tax, the lawmakers that make up the Makabayan bloc criticized the Train law for excessive taxes on petroleum products, coal, minerals, and sugar which are expected to jack of prices of basic goods, services, and transportation fares. (READ: EXPLAINER: How the tax reform law affects Filipino consumers)
They said the informal working sector and minimum wage earners carry the burden of higher prices, but do not benefit from the gains of new taxes because they don’t pay income tax in the first place.
The petition also includes a prayer for the SC to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the law, which was enforced on January 1, 2018.
The Duterte administration has a winning streak in the SC, but Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate believed that their petition has strong legal grounds.
Casilao said that the fight will go beyond the walls of the High Court. “We will see them not only in the court but also in the streets,” he said. – Rappler.com