“This is why we have made it a priority to make quality education affordable and accessible to all,” President Duterte said.
Edd Gumban/File
Duterte won’t stop TRAIN
Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Suspending or scrapping the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law will undermine the delivery of basic services, President Duterte said yesterday as he defended the implementation of the controversial tax measure, widely blamed for soaring prices of commodities.

Duterte made the statement at the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on free education between the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and state colleges and universities.

“This is why we have made it a priority to make quality education affordable and accessible to all,” Duterte said.

“The problem is funding. So we had this meeting with the Cabinet, all of us. And we were talking about so many things that government could do or could not do,” he said.

Proponents of a rollback in the hefty fuel excise tax under TRAIN have stressed that the tax measure accounts for only a small percentage of total revenue collection projected for 2018 so its implementation can be suspended amid galloping inflation.

Duterte echoed the stand of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, who justified the need for the government to strictly collect taxes to cover the tuition for students enrolled in public schools and colleges.

“The single solitary voice was Leonor Briones. She said that the people must pay their taxes. They have to pay for the government to work. There is no other way where we can raise the money for the needs of Filipino people except through taxes,” Duterte said.

He said the signing of the MOA “is a crucial step in helping young Filipinos fulfill their dreams of becoming productive members of our country’s workforce through academic degrees and technical or vocational training.”

At the event, Duterte also recognized Congress, CHED, TESDA and other state universities and colleges, local universities and colleges, technical vocational institutions and other partners “for making this exclusive dream – elusive dream rather – free quality tertiary education for all – a reality.”

For Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, the Supreme Court (SC) should immediately decide on the petition to stop the TRAIN.

He criticized the SC for being quick to remove its own chief justice but slow in deciding cases affecting people’s welfare.

Zarate said the SC justices decided Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition against the appointment of ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno “with inordinate speed in two months.”

Calida filed the petition on March 5 and the case was decided on May 11, he said.

On the other hand, the high court has been sitting for months and years on many public interest cases filed by Bayan Muna and other concerned groups and private citizens, he said.

Zarate said one of the pending cases is his group’s petition against TRAIN, which was filed on Jan. 11, a few days after the law was enacted.

He said Bayan Muna and other groups questioned the “anti-poor and regressive” provisions of TRAIN.

“TRAIN imposes a heavier burden on the poor than the rich,” he said.

Aside from what it describes as constitutionally questionable provisions of the law, Bayan Muna also claims that the House of Representatives approved the tax reform bill as contained in a conference committee report without the required quorum.

Fewer than 30 members were in the session hall when a vote on the measure was taken, the group said.

However, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, one of 12 House members sitting in the Commission on Appointments, said the SC, in resolving the procedural issue, would go by the journal of proceedings during the session when the chamber voted on the TRAIN bill.

“The journal reflects the presence of a quorum. There is no showing that this was questioned. Therefore, the House validly ratified the conference committee report on the bill,” he said.

Bayan Muna chairman and former representative Neri Colmenares said there are other cases filed by his group that are pending in the SC.

He said the oldest is the petition questioning the Arroyo administration’s agreement with China for a joint maritime survey of the West Philippine Sea, which was filed on May 22, 2008.

“Ten years later, the Supreme Court has not decided on Bayan Muna’s petition to disallow China’s access to our territorial sea through a supposed joint exploration with the government,” he said.

On Jan. 6, 2015, he said, Bayan Muna filed a complaint against a fare increase imposed by Metro Rail Transit-3 and Light Rail Transit.

“Yet, until now, the SC has not decided on this issue and the fare increase continues to be imposed until now but the service did not improve,” Colmenares stressed.

He pointed out that other petitions asking the tribunal to require telecommunications companies and power distributors to refund “illegal charges” have also remained unresolved.

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