IF Secretary Mar Roxas can only be consistent, we can say that his pronouncements come from a principled stand. Otherwise, he’s just an ordinary politician going where the wind blows.
As opposition senator, Roxas made a lot of proposals and denunciations that helped heighten the unpopularity of the Arroyo administration. I dutifully kept a record of his statements in the Senate, as I did with many other senators past and present. The record showed that the Senator Roxas who was very vocal with perceived failings of the Arroyo administration, particularly on oil prices and revenue, is nowhere to be found since the advent of the Aquino administration.
He was then shouting to the high heavens that oil and power should be exempted from the 12-percent expanded value added tax (EVAT) to ease the burden of consumers and make the cost of doing business less burdensome. This was rejected but he stuck to his guns. Now, he isn’t even whispering about this exemption to the Aquino administration.
Roxas, now the presidential candidate in-waiting of the Liberal Party, also proposed that petroleum products be exempted from EVAT coverage for six months. The Arroyo administration nixed this as this would result in a P20-billion budget deficit. Roxas retorted that the administration should first strive to improve revenue collections before rebuffing his proposal.
He explained: “This is not government’s money. This is the people’s money. People are going to spend this, and when they do, the government will get it back anyway. The only challenge to government is to do what it ought to do anyway, which is to be an efficient collector of the tax.”
I wonder why he isn’t saying this of the Aquino administration that has often failed to meet its revenue targets and why he isn’t reviving his proposal to suspend the EVAT coverage of petroleum products. He was supposed to be the champion of consumers so why isn’t he consistently pursuing moves that would benefit them?
The other favorite targets of Roxas the opposition senator were the “overcharging” oil firms.
“They’re not only overcharging; they are also teasing the public with small rollbacks,” he noted.
There’s been no change in this “teasing” of the public by oil firms who hike their prices by P1.50 a liter and then reduce them by 25 centavos but we haven’t heard from Roxas about this. Could it be that the oil firms have suddenly become very honest and are charging consumers correctly under the Aquino administration?
He then accused the Department of Energy and the Arroyo administration of allowing the giant oil firms to lie to the public by not compelling the opening of the oil firms’ financial books. Since 2010, this member of the Aquino Cabinet has been mute on the issue of forcing oil firms to open their books. Why, Mr. Secretary? Or, is he now merely following the “tuwid na daan” of the Aquino administration?
Oh yes, to his credit, he also conceived of giving fuel cards to drivers of public utility vehicles that cost the government a princely sum of P200 million. Hey, did I say “princely?” I take that back. I just recalled Roxas’s statement where he denigrated as “inadequate” and “tokenism” the move of the Arroyo administration to reduce the tariff on oil products from three to two percent. That reduction, which Roxas described as inadequate, was worth P11 billion in foregone government revenues. Now, is the P200 million for fuel cards, the best that the Aquino administration and Roxas could think and consider adequate but Arroyo’s P11 billion isn’t?
His strong words then and his muted voice now on the issue of oil prices and government revenues don’t encourage confidence in his pronouncements, even if he gets endorsed by the Malacañang tenant to continue his claimed “tuwid na daan.”
Oh well, what else could we expect from the man who said “Everything is under control” when interviewed by CNN after the devastation by Typhoon Yolanda? He can’t see things as they are because he is wearing yellow-colored glasses, if not yellow blinders.
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