Senator Chiz Escudero maintained that improving the collection efficiency of the government as well as fighting graft and corruption should be its top priority over plans to raise taxes so as not to put additional burdens in the lives of the already “overtaxed” Filipinos amid soaring prices of basic and prime commodities.
Guesting on GMA-7’s “Unang Hirit”, Escudero reiterated he is not in favor of the new taxes being proposed by the government’s economic managers that were endorsed by President Marcos at his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Para sa akin dapat i-improve muna ‘yong tax collection,” the veteran legislator stressed.
The President has asked Congress to pass new taxes such as excise tax on single-use plastics, expand the Value-Added Tax (VAT) on digital services, rationalize the mining fiscal regime, and raise the Motor vehicle user’s charge/road user’s tax (MVRUT).
Zeroing in on the proposed road users’ tax, he said the government should make an accounting of the revenues it generated since the law took into effect 20 years ago.
“Mahigit P140 bilyon na ang nakolekta mula sa road users’ tax. Nasaan ba nagastos ‘yon?”
“Ipakita muna nila kung saan nga ba nagastos ‘yong road users’ tax na earmarked ‘yan para sa ikakaayos ng mga lansangan para sa mga motorista. Mahigit P140 bilyon na ang nakolekta mula sa road users’ tax. Nasaan ba nagastos ‘yon?” the seasoned lawmaker asked.
Instead of expanding the base of VAT, the senator said the government’s collection agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenues (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) should intensify its tax collection campaign since.
According to Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, while the Philippines has the highest VAT rate compared to the other countries in this part of the world, its VAT collection is the most inefficient at only 40 percent.
“Kaugnay naman ng value added tax, ayon mismo sa Kalihim ay 40 percent lamang ang nakokolekta sa target nila sa VAT. Pwes, bakit hindi natin dagdagan ‘yong collection efficiency at gawing 50 o 60 porsyento bago tayo mag-isip ng panibagong buwis?” he pointed out.
In fighting graft and corruption, Escudero revived a proposal to introduce changes in the system.
Even simple ones, he said, that will have tremendous impact on the integrity of the institutions and prevent employees from committing illegal acts.
“Halimbawa sa Bureau of Customs, na palitan natin ‘yung mga mesa nila. Wala na ang mga drawers dapat, at palitan rin natin ‘yung mga uniporme nila na wala na dapat mga bulsa.”
“Kagaya nga ng sinabi ko na, i-identify ang areas of discretion. Tanggalin o bawasan ‘yon. May nagpanukala nga dati, halimbawa sa Bureau of Customs, na palitan natin ‘yong mga mesa nila. Wala na ang mga drawers dapat, at palitan rin natin ‘yong mga uniporme nila na wala na dapat mga bulsa,” Escudero explained.
“Ito ay simpleng pamamaraan na nagbibigay ng panibagong hudyat na bago na ang sistema at panibago na ang umiiral na liderato sa mga ahensyang ‘yan,” he said, recalling that changes in the Philippine National Police (PNP) after the 1986 People Power Revolt started by changing the color of its uniform from brown to blue to signify the new police organization.
“So mula sa simpleng lamesa o uniporme patungo sa pag-identify ng areas of discretion, marahil ay mami-minimize natin ang corruption at pang-aabuso sa pwesto at marahil tataas ang tax take ng pamahalaan at hindi na kakailanganin pa na magpataw ng panibagong buwis,” Escudero concluded.