Where has the 25¢ flood tax gone?

- Jerry Botial -
Where have the flood taxes gone?

If you’re wondering whether the 25 centavos collected from every moviegoer not too long ago has been put to good use, wonder no more.

The fund meant to help finance Metro Manila’s flood control efforts has long ceased to exist, and could very well have gone down the drain.

No flood tax has been collected for the last 13 years, or since 1987 when Marcos Presidential Decree No. 18 that provided for it "self-destructed."

Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said nobody could really understand the Marcosian wisdom of giving the tax edict a lifetime of 15 years, or from 1972 to 1987.

The public can also kiss good-bye the answers to the questions of how much had been collected and how the funds were spent.

Except for isolated cases, concerned local government units and agencies have since consigned all pertinent records to the dumpsite, or the drainage.

And don’t bother to ask government officials about it, because they have admitted to The STAR that, honestly, they don’t know.

Officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the City of Manila said they know "matagal nang wala ito (it has long ceased to exist)" and could not provide details.

Revenue Division chief Cleofe Ablog of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s Treasury Department told The STAR in a phone interview that contrary to popular notion, the MMDA as well as its predecessor the Metro Manila Commission (MMC) had nothing to do with the collection, remittances and other flood tax transactions.

"The flood tax could have been confused with the current Prescribed Cultural Development Tax now still levied on movie admission tickets," Ablog said.

The MMC imposed the cultural tax through MMC Finance Circular 82-04 with Ordinance Number 06-79 as basis.

A 25-centavo cultural tax was imposed by the MMC effective Dec. 1, 1982 (signed by MMC Commissioner for Finance Mauro Calaguio and approved by then Metro Manila Vice Gov. now Quezon City Mayor Ismael Mathay Jr.) "in addition" to the flood tax then already levied on all moviehouse admission tickets.

Elena Illoso Cruz, chief of the Miscellaneous Inspection Section, License Division of the Manila City Hall Treasurer’s Office, said she was lucky her predecessor was good at record-keeping that flood tax documents remained intact.

Records showed that flood tax collected from 1983 to 1987 for the City of Manila amounted to some P27.603 million, broken down as follows: P7.275 million (1983), P6.639 million (1984), P4.953 million (1985), P4.84 million (1986), and P3.896 million (1987).

Following the paper trail, The STAR was told by National Cash Accounting Division chief Simon Aguilon that they have effectively disposed of the records of transactions, citing a Commission on Audit circular that says records kept for 10 years can be regarded as waste material.

Aguilon also revealed that the flood tax was an issue tackled in a public hearing by the House Committee on Public Works and Highways (CPWH) on April 28, 1999.

He added that no further hearings on the subject have been conducted. The STAR also discovered that the flood tax was never remitted to the National Treasury.

"I informed the CPWH that per records of the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) under EO 52, flood tax levied on admission tickets of moviehouses in Metro Manila was not remitted to the bureau," Aguilon said.

Aguilon quoted an unnamed MMDA representative as saying that under PD 18, the LGUs of Metro Manila had collected the flood tax then remitted the same to the Treasury until 1987.

Aguilon also said in a report to Deputy Treasurer Sotera Umali in 1999 that the DPWH informed the CPWH that "responsibility for flood control and drainage in Metro Manila remains at the DPWH" and that "the transfer of responsibility to the MMDA has not materialized."

Answering a query from Navotas Rep. Federico Sandoval, Aguilon said that according to Treasury records, the flood fund was "neither created nor established in the bureau."

"Also, it was not included in the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) National Standard Agency Coding System Manual as of April 1, 1997," Aguilon said.
MMC says otherwise
This contention was refuted by a circular from then MMC governor Imelda Marcos that the tax was due to the City Treasurer and "the amount collected remitted to the National Treasury."

The official said that as standard procedure, the collecting or implementing agency requests DBM for the issuance of a fund code which, according to him, apparently did not happen.

The collection of the flood tax was mandated by PD 18 issued Oct. 7, 1972 by then President Ferdinand Marcos, barely three weeks after martial law was declared.

PD 18 was titled "An Act to Undertake an Integrated Flood Control and Drainage Program for the Greater Manila Area and Public Works Projects in Other Cities and Municipalities and to Provide Sources of Funds Therefor."

The defunct law expressly stated, among other fund sourcing considered, that "proceeds from a special metropolitan flood tax of P.25 (be) levied on all admission tickets of moviehouses in greater Manila for a period of 15 years."

The decree, however, was implemented only beginning Oct. 1, 1978, or six years after it had been issued. Theater owners were to remit the proceeds within the first 20 days of the following month.

From 1978 to 1982, the money went to the account of the Metro Manila Flood Control and Drainage Fund, and from 1983 to 1987, it went to the then Ministry of Public Works and Highways.

The accounting of the disbursements of this fund was to be made by the National Cash Accounting Division of the National Treasury.

The flood tax was one of the priority measures then already being deliberated in Congress and duly certified as urgent by Marcos following the disastrous floods that hit Metro Manila and Central Luzon in July-August 1972.

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