By RONALYN V. OLEA
I was happy to see many of you at the Rizal Park expressing your disgust over the immoral, scandalous pork barrel. As I took photos and went around, I overheard not a few of you rant about how much taxes you pay every year just to be spent by politicians according to their own liking.
The poor feel equally, nay even more angered by the massive, callous corruption in government.
The jobless, the minimum wage earners, the low income professionals, those who take odd jobs just to survive, are doubly oppressed and neglected. Mind you, they also pay taxes to the government in the form of the value-added tax (VAT). You’d say, well, it’s just VAT. It’s not much. But for the poor who values every cent of their earnings, the 10 percent VAT is too much. VAT is considered as regressive because the rich and the poor pay the same percentage of tax every time they buy something irregardless of how much they earn. So, for every kilo of rice worth P30 ($0.68), three pesos ($0.07) goes to VAT. For two cans of sardines worth P12 ($0.27) each, they pay P2.40 ($0.05). Five pesos ($0.11) each day times 30 days for a month is P150 ($3.30), an amount which could have been spent for transportation.
Speaking of transportation, jeepney drivers who belong to the poor, and even taxi drivers, bear the brunt of the VAT on oil. Oil companies increased pump prices this week by as much as 60 centavos ($0.01) per liter. At P44.10 ($1) per liter of diesel now, at least P110 ($2.49) is gobbled up by VAT from the daily income of jeepney drivers who usually consume 25 liters of diesel for an average of 16 hours on the road. You might think that that amount is not even enough to buy you a grande-sized mug of Starbucks but for the jeepney driver’s family, it’s enough to put food on the table for the night. Multiply that to six days of work per week, that’s P660 ($4.91), which could have been spent for their children’s baon (food) for a week.
In reality, crooked politicians steal more from the pockets of the poor. Every day, you see hundreds of them queue up in the office of PCSO, or their congressmen, to get financial assistance for the hospitalization of a loved one. Why would your blood not boil when a certain congresswoman blurted out that it’s okay to remove the PDAF but people should stop asking for help from them? In the first place, if the taxes, yes, including the VAT paid by the poor, are properly spent, the poor need not line up the whole day to get alms from government in the form of conditional cash transfer (CCT). Damn, it is also their money, the poor’s blood and sweat.
In the news, the president’s pork barrel for 2014 stands at more than a trillion pesos. A trillion. On the other hand, 79 state universities and colleges suffer from huge budget cuts.
There are many things that are wrong. Many questions need to be asked. As taxpayers, you have the right and responsibility to demand what is right from government. The poor, too. They are not the enemy. They are partners. You need to link arms with them and begin asking, analyzing the causes of their poverty.