• House postpones passage of tax bill

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    THE House of Representatives has postponed the approval of the Duterte administration’s “Tax Reform, Acceleration and Inclusion” (Train) bill to next week because of lack of time and quorum.

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    House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte made the announcement as the period of interpellation and debate on the measure dragged beyond 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

    Fariñas earlier said the Train bill, which will grant income tax exemption on individuals earning P250,000 a year or less, was scheduled to be approved on third reading last Wednesday or a week before the sine die adjournment of Congress’ First Regular Session on May 31.

    After the sine die adjournment, the House will be back in session in the third week of July, coinciding with President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address.

    Among the interpellators last Wednesday were Representativies Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis party-list,
    AntonioTinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list.

    “It was postponed because there were still interpellators but there is no quorum (majority of House present in the plenary),” Tinio said in a text message.

    It has been a practice for House members to wait for the roll call before showing up in the plenary hall, only to leave once they are marked present.

    Other lawmakers who had questioned the Train bill were Representatives Edcel Lagman of Albay, Anthony Bravo of Coop Natcco party-list and Rep. Arnie Teves of Negros Oriental.

    Of all the lawmakers opposed to the Train bill, only Bravo was able to get a concession. The bill’s sponsor, House ways and means panel chief Dakila Cua of Quirino, agreed to restore the P5 billion a year worth of tax exemption for cooperatives.

    While the Train bill increases the take-home pay of those earning P250,000 and below annually, it hikes excise taxes on fuel by P6 to P10 per liter.

    The bill also provides for a P48-billion subsidy for the Social Benefits Program to aid sectors hardly hit by increased fuel taxes, but the measure does not state how people can qualify for the such program.

    The bill is a priority legislation of the Duterte administration. The President will need to certify the measure as urgent so that the House can approve it before the sine die adjournment on May 31.

    Without the certification of the measure as urgent, the House won’t be able to tow the Train bill into passage since there has to be a three-day interval between second reading and third reading approval.

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