KUALA LUMPUR - President Benigno Aquino III is standing pat on his opposition to an adjustment or reduction of the income tax rates, calling the proposal a mere "pogi bill."
Aquino was asked for his final word on the matter after leaders of Congress pitched the idea of indexing tax rates to inflation.
"So tanong ko lang nga sa Kongreso, sabi ko: 'Malaki ang pressure sa inyo. Talagang 'pogi bill' 'yan''… Ayokong sabihin sa inyo 'babawasan ko ang buwis niyo' tapos baka naman 'yung sumunod...Tapos 'di ba 'yung susunod sa akin magsabi: 'Wala tayong magagawa kailangan kong taasan ang buwis niyo.' Mumurahin naman ako 'non. O baka naman maalala pa ng taongbayan na ako ang magmungkahi na bawasan na alam ko naman dadagdagan. Ayoko naman masabi 'yon,'' he said.
Aquino also said he does not want to give false hopes.
''So, ayaw mong pinaasa tapos wala. Gusto kong masigurado at iyon 'yung dini-discuss namin sa kanila. Sana may balanse. May tatanggalin kayong ganito, saan natin babawiin ‘yan?'' he added.
The President believes that some politicians are riding on calls to lower income taxes to increase their chances of winning in the upcoming elections.
''Siyempre eleksyon, pulitiko, lahat ng mga nagbababaang mga headlines nakakatulong sa kampanya...Is that a responsible action? I am not sure that's why we are still studying the matter,'' he said.
Proponents have cited the need to give taxpayers some relief as the Philippines supposedly has one of the highest tax rates in the region.
However, Aquino emphasized that the government already gave a tax relief when it increased the tax exemption for bonuses.
''Just for everybody’s knowledge, under our watch, we have already actually...given at least P96.8 billion, ito kasi envisioned na 30 billion, P96.8 billion na tax relief over the past several years. Iyong tax relief was brought about by the increase of the threshold bago sa 13th month pay bago mo ita-tax. The previous figure was P30,000 kapag lumagpas doon taxable na. Naging 82,000 na ngayon, so tinaasan natin ‘yan,'' he said.
Another benefit exempted from tax the president cited was the so-called ''de minimis benefits.''
The President admitted tax collection has been poor.
"Sa totoo lang ang target kasi sa tax collection administration efficiency was 16 percent. And we have actually done only 13.6 percent… Ang daming mga professional ulit, ano, na nagbabayad parang bahagyang lumaktaw sa minimum wage. So we are talking about doctors, lawyers, et cetera,'' he said.
The chief executive assured that tax money is well spent.
"Now, saan napunta naman itong mga pondong ito? For instance, ‘yung CCT program has increased sixfold at ‘yung beneficiaries naman from less 800,000 to 4.4 million households ngayon. Lahat ‘nung infra, upgrade, nasabi ko na ba? Sorry, ayokong maging sirang plaka e," Aquino added.
Aquino also claimed that the health department has tripled its budget while the infrastructure budget is now at a four percent value in relation to GDP.
"Next, school buildings na natapos to the tune of, I think, we’ll do something like tama ba? 186,000 by next year? Iyong backlog na millions ng books at saka tables. Hindi ba pumili ka na? Hindi naman nilustay itong perang ito. Now, anong issue?" he said.
Aquino also reiterated concerns that income tax reduction may affect the country's credit ratings.
Aquino has asked his allies in the legislature to prioritize other bills instead of thinking about the elections.
Aquino was referring to the proposed 2016 budget and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Debates on the BBL at the lower house have been hounded by the absence of a quorum.
"Ulitin ko lang and through you, baka pwede nating iparating sa lahat ng involved, we really have an opportunity to change the situation and the reality in Mindanao. If we don’t do it in a timely manner, we leave it pending until the next administration comes, which means after ‘di ba?" he said.
The president said there is no better time to pass the BBL.
''Ako I don’t want to risk it ‘di ba? Walang guarantee na next time, when we get around to it, nandyan pa ‘yung mga nagne-negotiate in good faith na talagang totoong ito ang end point na gusto nila. Now, may mga internal, external factors na tumutulong para mangyari ito. Nandyan na e, bakit pa nating gagawing baka? Baka ipasa down the line, kung pwede namang ipasa na ngayon?" he said.