By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A group of teachers on Friday criticized Education Secretary Leonor Briones for “misleading” the public and “unjustly” using the education sector to defend the implementation of the government’s tax reform program.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines slammed the Department of Education (DepEd) Chief for “misleading the public and unjustly using the education sector” just to emphasize the importance of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
Briones attended a Palace Briefing earlier where she emphasized that the education services received by the public is “funded by taxes” and how TRAIN law plays a significant role in delivering the basic services needed by the people.
“Education is a major beneficiary of the fiscal expansion, and people recognize the gains [and] it is high time we recognize that we need taxes to sustain this into the future,” the public finance expert and former national treasurer of the Philippines said.
DON’T USE, FOOL US
However, Briones’ stand on the TRAIN law does not sit well with the teachers.
ACT Philippines Secretary General Raymond Basilio said that the teachers are “well aware of the injuries” of the TRAIN Law to the ordinary people. “We feel it directly in our pockets and in our stomachs….so please, Madame Secretary, if you wish to defend the oppressive new taxes under TRAIN Law, do not do it in our name,” he stressed.
During the Palace Briefing, Briones explained how imposing zero tax rate for taxable income up to P250,000 per year immediately benefits the income taxpayers in the country which includes 461,695 Teacher I and Teacher II level teachers.
Basilio, on the other hand, countered Briones’ claim, arguing that “teachers gained almost nothing from the income tax exemption as it was quickly eroded by the steep inflation.” ACT came up with its own computation showing that the “Php 960 to P 1,277.25 additional take home pay of Teacher I and Teacher II level teachers per month brought about by income tax exemption was in the end decimated to Php 24 to P250 because of inflation.”
Teachers, Basilio added, “will surely chart losses on take home pay in July” as the fare increase took effect this month. Given this, he noted that Briones’ claim that the education sector will be a major beneficiary of the TRAIN Law is “unlikely.”
Basilio also accused the government of fooling the public. “Who are they trying to fool?” he asked. He noted that “it is written in the TRAIN Law that 70% of the new tax collections will go to the Build, Build, Build program [and] the remaining 30% would not even suffice to cover the cash transfers they promised the poor which were supposed to buffer the effect of the new taxes.”
HURTING THE POOR
Imposing new and higher taxes to goods, Basilio said, will just “hurt the poor.”
The government giving out dole outs, Basilio said, also does not “appeal to common sense.” He stressed that “robbing the poor of their hard-earned money, then, making them beg for mercy essentially strip them of human dignity.”
The government, Basilio said, “has no one to blame but itself for the public’s sentiment that taxes are oppressive” pertaining to the explanation of Briones that the “public mindset is that taxes are invariably tools of oppression.”
The public’s sentiments on taxes, Basilio said, is “rooted on the regressive taxation system in the country wherein higher taxes are imposed on socially-sensitive goods as in the TRAIN 1 package, while big businesses are given tax discounts as in the second package of TRAIN.”
“How will the attitude of the people on taxes change when even the increased education budget that the Secretary is talking about is not felt on the ground?” Basilio asked. “We experience the same old problems of shortages, schools could not even cope with the yearly increase in the number of enrollees, and teachers remain unheeded in our call for substantial salary increase,” he added.
Meanwhile, the group reiterated its ongoing appeal to junk the TRAIN law. “The government does not even need TRAIN Law to raise funds to resolve the problems and shortages in the education sector,” he said. He pointed out that based on government data, the “country loses about PhP 500 billion a year due to poor tax collection” and such amount “is even greater than the projected total collection from new taxes” under tax reform program.