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‘Blackmailing’ pols in 2016

/ 12:12 AM November 05, 2015

Two bills are now pending in Congress that President Aquino should better not keep ignoring, lest they spell the defeat of Mar Roxas, his anointed candidate in next year’s presidential race. I am referring to the bill lowering the country’s individual income tax rates and the P2,000 across-the-board adjustment in the monthly pension of the retired members of the Social Security System.

If enacted into law, the first one will benefit the country’s more or less 17 to 18 million registered individual income taxpayers; the second, the nearly two million SSS retirees. These numbers need not be taken for granted.

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One recalls that there were only 15.2 million voters (representing 42.08 percent of total voter turnout) who elected Noynoy president in 2010.  Imagine, alas, how many people will be displeased—meaning, will surely not vote for Roxas for downright blindly pursuing P-Noy’s “daang matuwid”—if these two bills remain unsigned into law by President Aquino before—not later than—the May 2016 polls!

The administration’s reason for its outright objection to the first bill is  that the government’s customary annual tax takes would be reduced (that’s extreme greed for taxes!); to the second, it would endanger the actuarial life of the SSS fund (that reflects past mismanagement!).

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Given the related facts, the objection is truly unfortunate, even monumentally ironic! For one thing, the Philippines is known to have the highest individual income tax brackets in most of Asia which, invariably ignoring inflationary trends, so obsoletely date to as far back as 1998. For another, while there were at least three 10-percent hikes in the SSS retirees’ monthly pension under Gloria Arroyo’s watch (September 2000 and 2006 and August 2007), the Aquino administration,  at the very best, can boast of the one and only 5-percent increase which took effect in June 2014. That, even as there are at least two laws expressly mandating a periodic review to upgrade the pensions and other benefits due SSS retirees: the 1987 Constitution itself and the Expanded Senior Citizens’ Act.

As things are, the administration has been recently reported as not totally opposed to the two legislations.  Only, it is yet in the process of conceiving such other measures as would temper or more or less negate the immediate impact of the two enactments on the government’s financial stability. To be fair, there may be nothing basically wrong with that, providing the two pending bills are passed before—repeat, before—the start of the campaign period.

As far as I can see it, this may be the first time ever in this country’s political history that the voters have a clear opportunity—indeed, a once-in-a-lifetime chance they can ill afford to let pass—to virtually “blackmail” (forgive me for failing to find a relatively kinder word) the administration into giving them that which should be rightfully theirs in the first place, or else …

—RUDY L. CORONEL, rudycoronel [email protected]

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