POLITICS is heating up in Manila.
Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has turned his guns at Rep. Amado Bagatsing, calling the latter as epal (scene stealer) in a video being shown to Manila residents.
The former president is being criticized for increasing to as high as 300 percent the real estate tax and 314 percent the business tax.
Bagatsing and former mayor Alfredo Lim, who are both running for Manila mayor, have made the tax hikes as political issue.
When asked for his reaction, Bagatsing told The Manila Times that Estrada is evading the issue.
“He does not know the meaning of epal. It means to advertise. We are not promoting [ourselves]here. What we are saying is that tax increases are excessive. That the businessmen and property owners were not consulted,” he said.
Estrada defended the tax hikes by saying there was no tax increase. “What was adjusted was the valuation of property. Tax remains at 2 percent. Of course, once the valuation is increased, the payable tax will also go up.”
The deposed former president said the tax adjustments were actually ordered by the Finance department to follow an existing law, mandating local government units to increase taxes every three years.
Bagatsing clarified that he is not against the directive of the Finance department, much more of the law.
He said the increase should have not been 300 percent or more than 300 percent.
“If there were consultations, people will not oppose the increase but they will bargain for lower taxes,” Bagatsing added.
He said taxing the people has limits.
“The purpose of taxation is to raise funds to deliver the basic needs of the city. The city must raise only the needed amount. You don’t have to overtax the people just for the simple reason of increasing your tax collections.”
The City Council has passed Ordinance 8330, also known as Revised Schedule of Fair Market Values of Real Properties with Councilor Raymundo Yupangco as principal author.
Estrada said the passage of the ordinance has brought in P9.2 billion in income in 2014 compared to the mere P6.2 billion income in 2013.
This 2015, it is projected that the income will reach P10.5 billion by year-end.
The mayor said that with the increase in income, the city was able to settle the P4.4 billion debts incurred during the term of Lim.
Estrada hit Lim for saying that he left P1.5 billion in the city coffers in 2013. Estrada defeated Lim in 2013 polls.
“What we have in cash was a mere P265 million, not even enough to pay the P350 million salary of our employees,” he said.
“The rest of the P1.5 billion was placed in trust fund and educational fund, which we are not allowed to touch,” the mayor added.