Senate to pass priority bills in first quarter

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THE Philippine Senate will tackle priority bills once it resumes plenary sessions this month, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said.

Pimentel said the chamber will start working on the measures on income tax reform, anti-money laundering, death penalty re-imposition and charter change.

The first six months of the first regular session of the 17th Congress were spent on reorganization and the passage of the 2017 budget, he noted.

President Rodrigo Duterte has included tax reform in his 10-point socioeconomic agenda, particularly the updating of income tax brackets and the lowering of corporate and individual tax rates.

Pimentel said the Senate Committee on Ways and Means headed by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara will study proposals to lower personal income taxes by adjusting the income tax brackets.

Angara has filed Senate Bill 129 that seeks to exempt workers earning below P70,000 in annual taxable income, or approximately P14,000 monthly, from paying taxes, dissolving the first three brackets in the tax code.

Meanwhile, those earning P20,000 to P30,000 monthly will move to a lower bracket and will be taxed at 20 percent instead of 25 percent. The lower tax rates will result in higher take-home pay and savings of more than P10,000 a year.

The top tax bracket will be increased to P1.25 million in annual income or more than P100,000 a month, from P500,000 annually or approximately P60,000 a month.

The Senate will also start plenary deliberations on the proposal to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act to include the casino industry under the scrutiny of the law.

The inclusion of casinos in the law’s coverage is one of the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog, to avoid the potential blacklisting of the Philippines.

Up to 7 senators opposed to death penalty
As for the re-imposition of the death penalty, Pimentel said it would be a priority for discussion. Many senators however are opposed to capital punishment, he said.

“Death penalty is a conscience issue. Based on my own count, more than five or seven senators are opposed to it, but we will give everyone a chance to speak,” he added.

Pimentel said that if death penalty will be imposed, it should only be for the most heinous of crimes, and if illegal drugs were involved.

The Senate will also work on the passage of a law to institutionalize the pension increase of retired Social Service System (SSS) members. The last time monthly pensions were increased was in 2014.

The chamber, before it went on a Christmas break, approved a resolution calling for an immediate increase of P1,000 in the monthly pension of all SSS pensioners.

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