A day after the State Of the Nation Address where President Duterte vowed to continue implementing the TRAIN or Republic Act 10963, petitioners reiterated their plea for a temporary restraining order and for the SC to strike down the tax measure for allegedly being unconstitutional.
Lawmakers press Supreme Court to stop TRAIN law
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Militant lawmakers led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate yesterday insisted on their bid in the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the implementation of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN law.

A day after the State Of the Nation Address where President Duterte vowed to continue implementing the TRAIN or Republic Act 10963, petitioners reiterated their plea for a temporary restraining order and for the SC to strike down the tax measure for allegedly being unconstitutional.

They again argued that TRAIN should be voided because it was approved by the House of Representatives without quorum as required in the Constitution.

“The TRAIN law was not validly passed. It became law in violation of the Sections 16 (2) and 27 (1) of Article VI of the Constitution, among others,” petitioners stressed in their 71-page reply.

Zarate and company contested the argument of the solicitor general that official journals of the House during deliberations on the TRAIN law on Dec. 13 last year where 232 out of a total of 295 members were present proved that the law was validly passed.

“There is no evidence to prove the due enactment of RA 10963. On the other hand, there are several pieces of evidence proving that it was passed in violation of the quorum requirement in Section 16 (2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the requirement of a bill passed by Congress in Section 27, Article VI,” petitioners claimed.

Article 6, Section 16 (2) of the 1987 Constitution and Section 75 of Rule XI of the House Rules both require the House to comply with the quorum requirement of a majority of the House membership before they can do any legislative business.

The militant lawmakers recalled that only around 10 lawmakers, including petitioners, were present during the ratification stage. 

They insisted that without such quorum, the House leadership has no authority to ratify the bill and send it to the President for signature.

“The absence of a quorum and a vote are facts pointing to prima facie grave abuse of discretion which respondents attempt to throw a veil over,” petitioners added.

The party-list lawmakers further claimed that the tax reform law, which slashes personal income tax rates while raising additional revenues for infrastructure and social services, is actually not beneficial to the public.

They said the new excise taxes on petroleum products and sugar-sweetened beverages, and its broader value added tax, will hit poor and low-income earners.

Zarate was joined by ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao in filing the petition. They were represented by former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares in this case.

Solicitor General Jose Calida already sought the dismissal of the petition filed by the militant lawmakers and consumer group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) in his comment last April.

He belied the claim of respondents, citing official journals of the House, and also argued that the high court cannot inquire into or review such existence of quorum in the House for the approval of the TRAIN bill without violating the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

He said they also violated the principle of hierarchy of courts and committed a fatal mistake in not impleading Congress in the case.

With these arguments, Calida said the President correctly relied on the enrolled TRAIN bill when he signed it into law, adding that Duterte cannot be impleaded in the case due to his immunity from suit while in office. 

Lastly, Calida asked the Court to consider the possible repercussions of the reliefs sought by petitioners in deciding on the case.

“The government and the public in general will greatly suffer if the TRAIN law is declared invalid. The government stands to lose an estimated P146.6 billion in 2018 from the lowering and restructung of personal income tax. This loss will only be offset by the revenue generating features of the TRAIN law, which is expected to provide P89.9 billion in incremental revenues for 2018 and P786 billion within the first five years,” he added.  

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV disputed the statement made by President Duterte about how the TRAIN law has helped poor families cope with rising prices of goods.

Aquino, who has been pushing for the suspension of TRAIN, said that his consultations with the poor families around the country have consistently shown that they are all hurting from the tax law.

While listening to the SONA, Aquino said he was waiting for the President to mention solutions to bring down the prices of goods, which he said never came.

“One of possible ways to go about that is to suspend the TRAIN law. Here at the Senate we’re hoping that our colleagues can still move together and suspend the law,” Aquino said.

In his SONA, the President said there were people irresponsibly suggesting that the TRAIN be suspended, something which he said “cannot and should not” be done. –  With Marvin Sy            

CARLOS ZARATE SUPREME COURT TAX REFORM FOR ACCELERATION AND INCLUSION ACT
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