MANILA - Some Makabayan bloc legislators on Friday urged the Supreme Court to act on their petition seeking to stop the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
Two petitions are currently pending before the high court questioning the constitutionality of the TRAIN law: one by Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate, ACT Teachers partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who are all members of the Makabayan bloc.
Another one was filed by Laban Konsyumer, Inc. and former Trace undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba.
In a motion filed through their counsel, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the Makabayan legislators asked the SC to “immediately resolve” the consolidated cases, which were filed in January.
They cited the record-high inflation rates in goods and fuel since the TRAIN law was implemented in January.
“We hope the Supreme Court takes this into account lalo na anim na beses na bumaba ang presyo ng langis sa international market in the last 4 weeks. 6 na rollback yun. Pero hindi gumalaw masyado ang presyo. Mahal pa rin ang bilihin. This ony proves that TRAIN ang may kasalanan dito. Not the international oil prices kundi TRAIN mismo,” NUPL chairman Neri Colmenares told reporters following the filing of the motion.
“May admission ang gobyernong Duterte na disastrous ang TRAIN sa taong bayan when they decided na i-suspend ang next tranche ng excise tax sa January. Pag-amin talaga ‘yan sa bahagi ng Duterte administration na grabe ang impact ng TRAIN sa taong bayan,” he said.
In October, the government announced it will not push through yet with the second tranche of excise tax increase in January 2019 to tame inflation.
TRAIN was supposed to add another P2 in excise tax per liter to the cost of diesel and gasoline, raising the total excise tax for diesel to P4.50 and for gasoline to P9. The excise tax was already hiked this year by P2.50 per liter per diesel and P7 per liter for gasoline.
A provision in the TRAIN law allows the government to suspend the excise tax hike if the average price of Dubai crude in the world market exceeds $80 per barrel from the 3 months leading to January.
Colmenares warned that the suspension is merely a temporary measure that the government can easily withdraw.
Suspending the excise tax increase, he said, will also not address the higher cost of goods brought about by the P2.50 excise tax on diesel in January this year.
“Pampalubag-loob lang itong suspension at itaga man sa bato, hindi bababa ang presyo dahil sinuspend nila ang impending another tax increase sa January of 2019,” he said.
Colmenares reiterated the petitioners’ position that the TRAIN law was passed without quorum.
“[U]nconstitutional ‘yung TRAIN dahil pinasa ito na walang quorum at ang mga Kongresista noon ay nagpaparty noong pinasa ang TRAIN sa Kongreso,” he said.
Colmenares also expressed concern that with the suspension of the imposition of excise tax hike, the Duterte administration might be forced to source funding for its Build, Build, Build program elsewhere.
Part of the justification for pushing the TRAIN law was to finance the government’s massive infrastructure projects.
“So ang tanong, kung sakaling i-suspend niya, saan niya babawiin yung nabawas na income sa gobyerno kung i-suspend ang TRAIN? So syempre, isang concern din yun na baka lalo niyang kaltasan ang mga budget for social services,” he said noting the budget cuts in education, health and other social services for next year’s budget.
“Ang priority niya ‘yung infrastructure Build, Build, Build niya na para sa amin, been there, done that. Panahon pa ni Marcos nagBuid Build Build na tayo di naman umangat ang buhay natin e,” he said.
Colmenares said now is the right time for the SC to act on the petitions citing the subsequent TRAIN packages pending in Congress, which he said might also be railroaded like TRAIN 1.
“If you remember right, ang TRAIN noong pinasa noong 2017 December, sabi ni President Duterte, ito ang Christmas gift ko sa mamamayang Pilipino,” he said.
“Sana madesisyunan ng Korte Suprema at mainvalidate ang TRAIN para by December pwedeng sabihin ng mga mamamayan kay President Duterte, ito ang Christmas gift mo, sinosoli na namin sa’yo,” he added.