January 24, 2018, 9:37 am
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Solons ask SC: Stop the TRAIN

THREE militant lawmakers yesterday asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) because its ratification in the House of Representatives was invalid.

The solons said most of the congressmen were out attending a Christmas party in a five-star hotel as House leaders forced its ratification in the plenary.

The TRAIN, which reduced personal income tax but raised duties on fuel, cars and sugar-sweetened-drinks and cut exemptions from the value added tax, took effect on Jan. 1.

In their petition, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis asked the SC to issue a TRO against the TRAIN, saying the Constitution and the Rules of the House were violated when it was ratified because there was no quorum at that time.

The petitioners said the absence of a quorum on Dec. 13, when the TRAIN was supposed to have been ratified, means there was no voting.

They said respondents Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Jr. committed grave abuse of discretion by specifically violating Section 16 (2), Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution and Section 75 of Rule XI of the House Rules which mandate the House to comply with the quorum requirement that reflects the majority of the House membership before doing any legislative business.

“The invalid ratification occurred at an unholy hour—unholy not only because of the lateness of the time, but also because the ratification occurred under appalling, reprehensible circumstances. The bogus ratification was slipped through when the members, especially its leadership, were not attending the session in Congress but outside its halls, with some even partying at a five-star hotel. It was a case of a fictitious congressional act without the members of Congress themselves,’ the petitioners said.

“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,” they added.

The petitioners also said there was no majority vote for the TRAIN since “a vote, whether viva voce or nominal, was not taken.”

The petition said Tinio and Zarate repeatedly objected to the ratification but Abu and Defensor refused to recognize and give them the floor until the voices of the two Leftist lawmakers were no longer heard because the microphone has been turned off.

The petitioners also named President Duterte as one of the respondents, saying he also committed grave abuse of discretion when “he signed a document which is not a “bill passed by Congress” and, therefore, has no effect as a bill subject to his approval under Section 27 (1) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.”

They disputed the assurances of the government that the TRAIN law would be beneficial to the public, saying the new excise taxes on fuel products and sugar-sweetened drinks and the broader-added tax will hit the poor and low income earners.

They said since informal workers and minimum wage earners did not pay income tax prior to the passage of the TRAIN law, they would not benefit from the lower income taxes and will even carry the burden of higher taxes and service rates.

“They will not be able to afford the higher prices that these new taxes will cause, or will be able to only minimally offset these higher prices with what little additional finances they will get from the lowered personal income tax,” they added.

The petitioners said they understand that government needed taxes to run the country, but they should not be raised at the expense of the ordinary people.

Solicitor General Jose Calida belittled the arguments raised by the petitioners as flimsy.

“Lack of quorum of Congress, is that all you have to nullify the TRAIN Law? Thank you, your Honors, for making my job easier,” Calida said in a post on his Twitter account.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said government is prepared to defend the TRAIN, which he insisted underwent the proper procedures.

“Only the court can conclude that there was grave abuse of discretion and of course, I have said it before that there’s overwhelming  presumption of regularity because of  the enrolled bill doctrine that the TRAIN was signed  by the  Senate President and the Speaker of  the House before it was signed by the President into law. That’s entitled to full respect from our courts,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor
 
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