“JESUS REPLIED, ‘AND YOU EXPERTS IN THE LAW, WOE TO YOU, BECAUSE YOU LOAD PEOPLE DOWN WITH BURDENS THEY CAN HARDLY CARRY, AND YOU YOURSELVES WILL NOT LIFT ONE FINGER TO HELP THEM.’ (Luke 11:46)
We, the Executive Commission of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), gathered on February 27 – March 1, 2018, to discuss and act on matters affecting the life and mission of our Church. Studying the current situation of our country and looking into issues which affect peoples’ lives has form part of our regular meeting. Hence, this fourth regular meeting one of the issues that prompted our concern is the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, which is gravely affecting the daily life of every Filipino.
The Philippine government explained in its declaration policy the purpose of TRAIN Law; (a) to “Enhance the progressivity of the tax system…” and (b)”to provide as much as possible, an equitable relief to a greater number of taxpayers and their families…” Generally it aims to decrease the taxes being paid by those individuals from their personal income tax, especially those that have low wages. Further the Duterte administration explains that, as low-wage earners are liberated from paying taxes, this would mean they would have more money for their family. However this is far from what is experienced by the people, especially those in the lower strata of the society.
The reality on TRAIN must be unmasked. It is in contrary to President Rodrigo Durterte’s claim that the poor will benefit from this law. In fact, it is the rich and those that have higher income who will benefit more under the new tax law; while the poor will still bear the brunt of paying higher taxes. The highest earning 40% or about 9.1 million households will have even more money in their pockets.
The Church understands that paying taxes is one of the responsibilities of every citizen in this country. In the same way it is expected that taxes paid by the people should be returned by the government in terms of services, especially on health and education.
The government states that TRAIN is to help support the government’s accelerated spending on Build, Build, Build (infrastructure) and social services (Conditional Cash Transfers). This will not benefit the poor Filipino people.
Though this Law will increase tax revenues for the government but the poor will not benefit from these taxes. The government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) which is supposedly to help the 10 million poorest Filipino families would not be felt by these poor people. The Php 200 per month as additional fund for every beneficiary of the 4.4 million existing Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the 3 million indigent senior citizens cannot cope the demand of costs of living in our society.
The revenues are not intended to help the poor but to give increases to the salary of the military and police to induce them to work hard in implementing the policies of the government’s war on drugs, all-out war through the counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and US-dictated anti-terror campaign. Much worse is TRAIN’s purpose of funding the government’s “build, build, build” program is erroneous because as we all know, the infrastructure projects of the government are financed with foreign loans and aids.
TRAIN Law is an additional burden to the Filipino people. One of the promises of President Duterte is to lessen the load of the suffering masses through some socio-economic programs. But with this new tax law affects the increase of prices in basic commodities, while on the other hand gives an income tax relief to the rich. This is injustice. This leaves the poor paying more for their basic goods and services with immensely higher taxes.
We reject TRAIN Law! It is anti-poor! It is anti-Human development! The progressive development of the country must give assurance of emancipation to the burdened, oppressed and marginalized. We call on the Duterte Administration to put a stop to these oppressive policies which continue to push the poor in the margins.
We care for the poor Filipino people; those who are weak and have nothing but their God-given right and dignity, they whose only refuge is the Lord, longing for deliverance. We as IFI should accompany our sisters and brothers faced with the many challenges as their journey and struggle towards fullness of life.
We, as a Church, as the body of Christ should be of one voice and speak for their rights. Together, let us denounce evil that continue to lurk in the land; slowly taking the lives of the poor and robbing their dignity. Let us be true our being witnesses of God’s love in the world.
We commit to be part of educating the people and create measures on how to respond to groans of the poor and marginalized;
We call on our faithful to be vigilant and critical, look deeper and guard the laws that are being passed by the government.
We enjoin the whole Iglesia Filipina Independiente to take active participation in journeying with the poor people of God in their struggle towards life in abundance.
Pro Deo et Patria!
The Most Revd Rhee M. Timbang
1 March 2018 | IFI Centennial House, Las Piñas City