SolGen: ‘Lame’ petition stopping TRAIN law beatable

Solicitor General Jose C. Calida. (PTV photo)

Lack of quorum of Congress is that all you have to nullify the TRAIN Law? Thank you, your Honors, for making my job easier.

The statement was posted on Solicitor General Jose Calida’s Twitter account on Thursday as he found flimsy the argument of the petition filed by militant lawmakers before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to halt the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.

In a 34-page petition filed before the SC Thursday, Makabayan bloc Reps. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna) and Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis) said the law should be declared unconstitutional for having been ratified by the House of Representatives and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 19 in violation of the 1987 Constitution and the rules of the House.

The petitioners said the tax reform law was invalid since there was no quorum when the House of Representatives ratified the joint bicameral conference report on the measure last December 13 and there was no voting involved.

“The violations (lack of quorum) are clearly proven by the official video recording of the December 13, 2017 session as live-streamed on that date and posted afterwards in the official website of the House of Representatives,” said the three congressmen in the petition.

On top of the lack of quorum, the petitioners said that second equally important requirement – the majority vote – was also not met.

Named as respondents in the petition are President Duterte, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Jr.

The petitioners urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order on the law, which took effect on January 1, pending adjudication of the case.

They also disputed the government’s claim that the tax reform law, which slashed personal income tax rates while raising additional revenues for infrastructure and social services, would be beneficial to the public.

They said the new excise taxes on petroleum products and sugar-sweetened beverages, and its broader value added tax would hit the poor and low-income earners.

TRAIN is the first package of the government’s proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), which is seen to generate additional revenues to fund the country’s investment requirements.

The law exempts those with an annual income of P250,000 and below from paying personal income tax and imposes excise taxes on petroleum products, automobiles, and sugar-sweetened beverages to offset revenue losses from lowering personal income taxes.

With the CTRP, the National Economic and Development Authority earlier said the country’s real gross domestic product would be higher by 0.5 to 1.1 percent by year up to 2022. p: wjg