Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. IV,  No. 28                           August 15 - 21, 2004                      Quezon City, Philippines


Outstanding, insightful, honest coverage...


Join the Bulatlat.com mailing list!

Powered by groups.yahoo.com

House Speaker Bows to Text Power

If texting helped hasten the ouster of President Joseph Estrada, the power of texting could also be instrumental in changing government’s plans as seen in the “text barrage” last August 9.


Texters used their cellular phones or cellphones last Aug. 9 to protest against the House of Representatives’ proposal to impose taxes on the use of text messaging or texting. Many of the texters were Filipinos living abroad.

Hundreds of text messages flooded House Speaker Jose de Venecia’s cellphone. Members of TxtPower, a broad alliance of cellphone subscribers in the country, sent this text message to various cellphone subscribers: “Txtrs, REVOLT! B a part of hstory. join 2day’s cybr-rally! Send `NO 2 TXT TAX’ 2 d ofc of spkr JdV 09178101226! Join TXTPOWER piket 1pm outsyd congress. Pls. pass!”

By afternoon of the same day, calling de Venecia’s cellular phone number gave the message, “The number you have dialed is incorrect.“

According to a Globe customer service representative, the number is “invalid” and “has not been used by any subscriber.” She said that Globe keeps a record of subscribers for five years and no subscriber used the said number. The latter, she explained, is either non-existing account or a new account that is not yet activated.

The following day, de Venecia decided against any move to tax text messaging.

The Philippines is said to be the world’s text capital.  There are around 28 million cellphone subscribers in the country. With a population of about 80 million, one out of four Filipinos use cellphones. There are 150 million text messages sent every day and, on the average, a cellphone subscriber sends five text messages a day.


TxtPower revealed that 10,000 Filipinos here and abroad have signed a petition against tax on text messaging and that the count goes on.

About 80 percent of text users are small wage earners who find it convenient and cheaper to communicate with their folks in the provinces.

TxtPower revealed that 80 percent of those who signed the petition were students and professionals.

Raymond Palatino, national executive vice president of Anak ng Bayan youth party and co-convenor of TxtPower, said that taxing text messages would limit access to cheap and efficient communication technology of millions of students and young professionals. 

Migrants’ support

The Filipino migrants’ presence was also felt in the petition. One out of every 20 online signatures came from Filipinos based in the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, France and other countries.

Sending a 160-character text message abroad costs P10 to P20 ($0.18 to $0.36, based on an exchange rate of P55.68 per US dollar). The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), meanwhile, charges $0.40 per minute for international calls. For many families of Filipino migrants, texting is much cheaper than making voice calls.

Franchise tax

However, Malacañang said that it would instead propose a franchise tax on mobile cellphone providers which would benefit cellphone subcribers.

TxtPower Convenor Trixie Concepcion rejected the proposal, arguing that consumers suffer from taxes on utilities as these are passed on to them. “The telecommunication companies can always find creative ways of reducing services or increasing costs to recover these new taxes which increases the cost of using mobiles (or cellphones).“ 

Concepcion added that while consumers end up paying for these taxes, companies retain their profits and the Macapagal-Arroyo administration gets to address the ballooning budget deficit aggravated by graft and corruption and overspending in the recent presidential elections.

No let-up

Palatino said TxtPower will continue to oppose any attempt to impose taxes on cellphones. “While we oppose any move to tax the ordinary consumers, we call on the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to implement other measures in addressing the budget deficit.”

Palatino reiterated the group’s call to fight graft and corruption and prosecute tax evaders.

Economist Jose Enrique A. Africa, Bayan Muna consultant on finance and the economy, said that a crackdown on big-time and endemic corruption will already result in savings amounting to P127 billion ($2.28 billion).

Africa also noted that the biggest tax evaders are rich. He said that corporations pay only P88.3 billion ($1.58 billion) out of a potential average tax collection of P142.4 billion ($2.56 billion) annually. Bulatlat

Back to top

We want to know what you think of this article.