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‘Coco levy, lower income tax first before death penalty’

Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – With the House of Representatives scheduled to start plenary debates on the bill restoring the death penalty this week, lawmakers were asked to set it aside and instead focus on passing legislation on the coconut levy fund and lowering the personal income taxes of workers.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said over the weekend that Congress should focus first on passing legislation concerning the economic welfare of the people.

He pointed out the coco levy trust fund measure is also a priority of the Duterte administration.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the Duterte administration should lower the personal income taxes of the country’s private and public workers, as well as slash the corporate income tax, before the bill reviving death penalty is passed.

“If we want our economy to grow faster and create more jobs, we should first bring down personal income taxes from 32 percent to 25 percent, and cut corporate income taxes from 30 percent to 25 percent,” Atienza said.

Atienza said the House should take its cue from the Senate, which has categorically declared that while reducing income taxes is among their main concerns, the reimposition of capital punishment is not among their priorities.

The coco levy fund bill is scheduled for deliberation in the Senate plenary for the third time today.

“We at the Senate have started (deliberating) on this (coco levy fund bill) and have made good progress. We hope that our representatives in the House would focus on this problem of poverty and injustice of our coconut farmers instead of the death penalty. Let’s eliminate hunger, not the hungry,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture, is the principal author of the measure. The committee approved the bill last Nov. 9.

The measure was certified urgent by then president Benigno Aquino III.

Pangilinan suggested that President Duterte should also certify the measure as urgent so the bill would make progress in the House.

He said during the campaign Duterte promised to coconut farmers that in the first 100 days of his administration, they would benefit from the now over P76-billion coco levy fund.

Pangilinan said the immediate passage of the coco levy trust fund bill would unlock the funds for the benefit of 3.5 million Filipino coconut farmers.

Atienza, on the other hand, said the Senate does not even want to prioritize proposals concerning the revival of the death penalty law.

The restoration of capital punishment is not among the priority bills of the Senate in the current 17th Congress, Atienza said, since there was no assurance it would get support from Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

“The bill lowering income taxes is obviously among the priorities of both chambers, so we should approve it first, more so because the Senate cannot pass any tax reform bill until it has been endorsed by the House,” Atienza said.

The bill pruning income taxes is still being threshed out by the House ways and means committee.

“Let us focus on passing the positives, and abandon the negatives. Tax cuts are highly positive. The death penalty is extremely negative,” Atienza said.

Tax cuts would put more money at the disposal of low- and middle-income families, and help drive household consumption spending, thus creating greater demand for goods and services, and encouraging industries to expand capacity and increase hiring, Atienza stressed. 

Specter  

Sen. Risa Hontiveros argued that instead of passing the bill restoring the death penalty, the focus should be on legislation to reform the country’s judicial system.

She warned the death penalty under a weak justice system will give Filipinos “another specter to fear.”

Hontiveros said death penalty combined with extrajudicial killings will create a new wave of fear among Filipinos.

“Extrajudicial killings together with constitutional killing brought about by death penalty will only add to the growing climate of fear and impunity in the country. It will further undermine the people’s human rights, particularly the right to life,” she said.

She said the plan to reimpose the death penalty contradicts the administration’s supposed rehabilitation and reformation programs for convicted drug users and criminals.

FRANCIS PANGILINAN
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