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Reli L. German: Runaway TRAIN ? Anak ng Putax!


#Don’t tax my beauty!

This cogent plea that was posted on Twitter by netizen @quincharky quickly went viral on social media and compelled AKO Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe to beat a hasty retreat and withdraw a bill he filed that would impose a “vanity tax” on beauty products and services.

The bill was intended to replace the excise tax on petroleum products being pushed by the government. Following the intense flak that greeted his proposal, Batocabe pulled out the revenue measure. “We do realize also that taxing beauty products would adversely affect certain sectors and would deprive them of their basic happiness,” he said. He may have remembered poet John Keats line that “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” It was also a virtual acknowledgment of the principle that every person has an inalienable right to “the enjoyment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Right, ladies? (Now, in which Constitution did I read such a noble ideal?)

One unintended effect of his proposed “tax on beauty” was that it added fuel to the controversy on the Tax Reform and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill which is now under consideration in the Senate. According to Finance Usec Karl Chua, TRAIN aims to raise P718 billion additional revenues for education, P139 billion for health, P267 billion for social welfare and P1.1 trillion for urban and rural infrastructure.

There are fears however, that this TRAIN could turn out to be a runaway locomotive that would smash a lot of things on its path and drive poor families further down the lower levels of poverty. Among other things, this measure will impose an additional P6 per liter tax on petroleum products and a new P10 tax per liter volume on sugar-sweetened beverages and drinks, and even on 3-in-1 coffee.
The House version of the bill will stagger the imposition of the additional P6 tax on petroleum products in amounts of P3, P2 and P1 over three years. Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, says their version will reverse this and apply instead a 1-2-3 formula.

I hope Senator Sonny is aware that in street parlance, 1-2-3 refers to a group of guys furtively sneaking out of a food or drinking establishment one after the other, without paying their bill. Kaya tanong ng taxpayers kay Senator Sonny, di kaya sila ma-1-2-3 din sa batas na ito, gaya ng kawawang cashier o waitress na puwersadong nagbabayad sa tinakbuhang bill?

Seriously, this TRAIN is loaded with provisions that could derail hopes for a better life. Diesel is used not just by drivers of public buses, jeepneys and tricycles but also by farmers, fishermen and truckers who deliver rice, fruits, fish, vegetables, poultry, eggs and manufactured goods. So the added excise tax on oil products will certainly result in increased expenses for commuters, and in the price of agricultural and marine products – even of manufactured goods like sardines

The proposed law also aims to lift the VAT exemptions of a good number of items, including products and loan services of coops, socialized housing and rentals of dwelling units being leased by low and middle-income families. Sure, the bill also provides for the lowering of income tax rates. but the new tax burdens really offset this. It would seem that what the right hand is giving, the left hand is taking away.

Using the language of someone in the palace, baka mapamura tayo ng husto sa minumungkahing TRAIN – Anak ng PuTax!