• Aquino vetoes centenarian benefits bill

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    Following the disqualification of a party-list group representing senior citizens, President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday vetoed a measure that seeks to grant more benefits to some 7,000 Filipino centenarians.

    Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte explained that the President vetoed the bill because the discounts and tax deductions it aims to provide are too heavy.

    In his veto message, Aquino acknowledged the intent of the measure but said the benefits it seeks to give are too onerous for business establishments.

    “The 75 percent discount exceeds the usual mark-up rate of most businesses and will obliterate profit margins and result in capital loss,” he said. “The measure [as amended by the Senate]does not provide for a tax deduction to recover the said discount.”

    Valte said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) also believes that the 75 percent discount may be too high.

    “I don’t see that there is a problem in the process. According to Commissioner [Kim] Henares, BIR was present even at the committee level, at the hearings for this particular one, and they have consistently made their position that the 75 percent may be too heavy without a tax deduction on the part of the establishment,” she said.

    “The input from the executive was provided. It is certainly up to our legislators—who is part of a co-equal and separate branch of government—to take that particular input and to consider it in their positions,” she added.

    Laudable
    The intent of the law was “certainly very laudable” but other factors were also considered, according to Valte.

    “They should assess this in case it wants—the proponents of the bill want it refiled because the bill has good intentions,” she said.

    “The bill did not provide for a tax credit or a tax deduction for the establishments to recover the said amount. Kumbaga, ang mangyayari po kung naipasa ito, ang magbe-bear ho nung burden nung 75 percent ay ‘yung negosyo. Hindi po nila maki-claim as a tax deduction [For instance, if that bill passed, the business establishments would be bearing the brunt of the discount and will not be able to claim it as tax deduction],” Valte further explained.

    The Centenarian bill was the 3rd measure vetoed by Aquino. He also rejected the Magna Carta for the Poor and the bill removing the height requirement for policemen.

    Also on Tuesday, veteran lawmaker Edcel Lagman of Albay said administration Sen. Francis Pangilinan should be blamed for the veto, stressing that the bill was doomed because the senator pushed for a “bloated” 75 percent discount for the beneficiaries.

    Lagman was referring to House Bill 834 or the Act Honoring and Granting Additional Benefits and Privileges to Filipino Centenarians, which he authored.

    Lagman said that Pangilinan’s proposal of granting centenarians a 75 percent discount on the sale of goods and services— a significant increase compared with the House version which provided a 50 percent discount—was what prompted President Aquino to veto the bill.

    “Bill grabbers are sometimes the bane of legislation because instead of assuring the enactment of a measure into law, they prejudice the final approval of a bill by the President. The 75 percent [discount]was found to be exorbitant and oppressive by the President,” Lagman said in a statement.

    Lagman accused Pangilinan of copying his bill, saying that the senator filed his copied version of the Centenarians bill or Senate Bill 3328 after the House approved the measure on third and final reading on March 21.

    The House version of the measure only provided for a 50 percent discount as an exception from the value-added tax (VAT), if applicable, and as an amendment to the various Senior Citizens Acts but without removing the tax credit or deduction in favor of concerned establishments so that they will not incur business losses.

    He, however, conceded that there were also lapses on the part of the authors of the measure in the House of Representatives.

    The Albay lawmaker disclosed that Pangilinan’s version was approved by the Senate shortly before the adjournment of Congress for the political campaign, which means that a Bicameral Conference Committee was not formed to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill.

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