NOT to put too fine a point on the matter, but the stubborn refusal of the incumbent Aquino administration and BS Aquino’s would-be successor Manuel A. “Mar” Roxas 2nd to give serious consideration to what is by now a virtually universal call to lower income taxes is completely astonishing for being divorced from anything even remotely resembling practical reality.
At a forum of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, Roxas offered the bizarre opinion that the tax issue “should not be discussed in the heat of political battle of elections.” His reasoning, he explained, was that it was a serious topic, but that during an election campaign, “What’s to stop somebody from saying let’s bring that income tax down to zero, that’s the most popular thing to do.”
What we think Roxas was trying to say was that the issue of lowering income taxes, being a hot-button issue, could lead candidates to make promises they could not or otherwise would not intend to keep simply for the purposes of attracting votes. We would agree that we do not want candidates making cavalier campaign promises, but on the other hand, Roxas’ statements betray a certain lack of sincerity; his views imply that he places little value on campaign promises of any sort, which could very well lead one to conclude that any he makes will not be worth taking seriously.
Is Roxas in fact saying that the election campaign period is NOT precisely the time when parties and candidates are required to publish and explain their platforms, plans and programs?
We believe the election campaign is the perfect time to discuss an overhaul of the income tax system, for a couple of sound reasons. First, it is an issue that affects virtually every Filipino individual and business. Second, the entire purpose of an election campaign – and we realize this may come as a surprise to the current crop of candidates – is to allow the voters to assess the candidates’ plans for governance in the next six years. How they approach a key issue like taxes tells us not only how they intend to manage that particular matter, but provides insights into what their overall approach would be to a number of other issues as well.
We understand that, because the President from whom Roxas takes his marching orders is against tax reform, he is reluctant to deviate from that point of view. If he wishes to make “no tax cuts” a formal part of his platform, that is his prerogative. But to try to dismiss the issue as invalid or out of place simply because his position is evidently extremely unpopular is out of line.
Whether or not Roxas will come to understand that is irrelevant. We intend to keep the issue at the forefront of the election debate, and we are fairly certain most of the public will, too.