By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Ways and Means unanimously approved yesterday a substitute bill seeking to strengthen the political party system in the country, as it decided to exempt from donor’s tax the voluntary contributions to any political party.
The House panel, chaired by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing passed the tax provision of the unnumbered bill which substituted House Bills 522, 697, 1695 and 7088, authored by Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr., and MAGDALO partylist Rep. Gary Alejano.
The Suansing panel specifically approved Section 11 of the substitute bill that provides that the voluntary contributions to any political party shall be tax-exempt.
These include the voluntary contributions of up to P1 million from a natural person; up to P10 million from a juridical person; and any contribution in cash or in kind to a political party for campaign purposes, duly reported to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“This bill is very relevant and much-needed. If a natural or juridical entity will contribute, the issue on hand is whether or not these Good Samaritans will be taxed. The bill proposed that they will be tax-exempt. Under taxation laws, as general rules, everything is taxable unless the law specifically states that it is not.
We are here to seek your guidance and approval,” Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, said before the approval of the bill.
It was Deputy Speaker and Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero who moved for the approval of the substitute bill.
Tugna explained that the bill covers all political parties duly registered with the Comelec.
Under the bill, if the politicians transfer to another political party one year after their election and one year before the next scheduled poll, their elective office will be forfeited, he said.
He said the bill seeks to give “stability” in the political landscape and ensure the continuity of government policies and programs.
Speaker Arroyo, one of the principal authors of the bill said the measure aims to change the norm of having political butterflies during and after the election period.
The bill seeks to give importance to party ideas and policy agenda rather than political pragmatism and survival, she said.
Under the bill, any member of the party wanting to change party affiliation after being elected on the party’s ticket, should first resign from his elective position and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate
Likewise, defecting persons cannot be appointed nor hold any position in any public office until after the expiration of the term within which they were elected.
“Our history tells us that political parties in the Philippines are normally used only as political vehicles to win an election. Hence, most political aspirants change political parties for convenience, rather than conviction.
This only shows the lack of ideological commitment to the members of a party because they choose parties based on the rise and fall of the tide of opportunity,” Arroyo said.
The substitute bill aims to institutionalize and strengthen political parties in the country by introducing reforms in campaign financing and providing financial subsidies to political parties to augment their expenditures for the campaign.
It mandates political parties to craft a clear policy agenda and program of governance consistent with their party philosophy and ideals. Each party shall formulate a system of nomination and selection of candidates, in which all party members are involved.
The bill also mandates the creation of a State Subsidy Fund (SSF) which shall be used directly and exclusively for party development and campaign expenditures of accredited national political parties.
Meanwhile, the same House Committee on Ways and Means unanimously passed yesterday a substitute bill seeking to provide equal opportunity for employment to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and grant incentives to private firms that employ them both as apprentices and regular employees.
The House panel nodded to amend Section 5 of Republic Act 7277, as amended, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability” to ensure that no PWD shall be denied access to opportunities for suitable employment.
At least two percent of all positions in government agencies, offices, or corporations shall be filled up with qualified PWDs, according to the substitute bill.
Under the bill, private corporations are mandated to reserve at least one percent of all positions for PWDs and those corporations with more than 1,000 employees are mandated to reserve at least two percent of all positions for PWDs.
“A qualified employee with disability shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment and share the same compensation, privileges, benefits, fringe benefits, incentives or allowances as a qualified able-bodied person,” it said.
Incentives to employers
The Suansing panel also approved the provision amending Section 8 of RA 7277 to grant incentives to employers of PWDs.
“To encourage the active participation of the private sector in promoting the rights of PWDs and ensure gainful employment for qualified PWDs, adequate incentives shall be provided to private entities which employ PWDs,” the substitute bill proposed.
The bill provides that private entities that employ PWDs who meet the required skills or qualifications, as apprentices or learners, shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income equivalent to 25 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.
While private firms that employ PWDs as regular employees shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income equivalent to 50 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.