By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
As the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) Law begins to figuratively run over consumers in terms of much higher prices, the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers in Congress is all set to file this week a petition questioning its legality and propriety before the Supreme Court.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said they will file a petition seeking to invalidate the TRAIN Act, which President Duterte signed into law last month to generate revenues to fund the government’s infrastructure program.
This occurred as farmer groups warned that the TRAIN law will result in increased production cost of major staples and agricultural produce. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement: “The additional excise tax on petroleum products will directly impact the agricultural production cost as farmers and agricultural producers use diesoline and gasoline in every process of production, from land preparation, planting, harvesting, post-harvest to transportation.”
KMP Secretary-general Antonio Flores said the increased tax on fuel will result in higher production costs of agricultural products, which will instantly translate to higher prices of rice, vegetable produce, poultry, livestock and dairy products.
Anak-Pawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao of party-list group accused Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez of dispensing “fake news” in claiming that the impact of increased fuel taxes on consumer products is less than five centavos.
In fact, Casilao said transport groups are now petitioning for higher fares, while labor organizations are seeking a wage increase, and all these would have a more substantial effect on consumer prices than what Lopez estimated.
At a news forum, Tinio said among the arguments in their petition is the “invalid ratification” of the then tax reform bill last December for lack of quorum as only 10 lawmakers were present. “The more substantive issue is the regressive nature of this law,” he added.
Tinio pointed out that while six to seven million Filipinos will benefit from the TRAIN law because of lower income taxes, 16 million Filipinos belonging to the poor sector will suffer as a result of higher prices of food, fuel and other basic commodities.
“Is it not clear who are the winners and losers here?” Tinio said, adding that while the Makabayan bloc is counting on the objectivity of the Supreme Court justices, the public should also do their share by making the TRAIN law an electoral issue.
“The main arena for fighting the TRAIN law is not in the judiciary. The administration and legislators who inflicted TRAIN on the majority of the people should be held accountable in the elections,” he said.
A farmers’ group also warned that the TRAIN law will result in increased production cost of major staples and agricultural produce.
“Most farm equipment used by farmers also run on gas and diesel, including deep-well for irrigation, hand tractors, threshers, drying facilities and milling,” he added.
But the Duterte administration seemed unfazed by the opposition’s plan to challenge the TRAIN Law before the Supreme Court, describing their claims as baseless and insisting that the measure would create a “virtuous” cycle in the economy.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the administration is prepared to defend the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law before the high court. “Taxation is one of three inherent powers of a state. Hence, it enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality. We can defend it in court,” Roque said.
In the same vein, Lopez said the TRAIN Law would pave the way to a “virtuous cycle” because it would generate additional revenues that can fund infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, railways and airports.