POSTSCRIPT / April 11, 2013 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cedula tax is a case of double taxation?

GOOD NEWS: The Bureau of Internal Revenue is finally waking up to the fact that the cedula (now called Community Tax Certificate) is an undue imposition that serves no purpose except to overtax people.

Urging the scrapping of the Community Tax Certificate, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares notes that it is an unreliable means of identification. Some of the CTC money collected is just stolen, she adds.

Since the Marcos regime, I have been writing that the cedula, which Filipino revolutionaries tore up more than 116 years ago in protest against Spanish colonial misrule, be abolished.

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WHY SCRAP IT?: My own reasons for opposing the continued use of the cedula are:

As a form of identification, it is useless. It is easy to secure a cedula under any name. The name on the piece of paper is not necessarily that of the bearer. It has no picture and can carry any signature.

Collecting a residence or community tax is wrong. Why should a Filipino be taxed for residing in his own homeland? Aliens may be required to pay a fee/tax for the privilege of residing here, but not Filipinos.

Collecting a community tax is double taxation. The variable cedula tax paid is based on one’s INCOME and REAL PROPERTY, which are separately taxed already.

Some hotshot lawyer should file a petition to take down from the books this anachronistic and illegal imposition.

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NEW ID NEEDED: When a person transacts business with the government or attests to public records, instead of the usual cedula he can now use another proof of identification, such as his passport or voter’s and social security ID.

Henares mentions that not all cedula collections of local governments reach the national treasury. The amount actually collected is easily under-reported by “doctoring” the duplicate or carbon-copy receipt.

The administration should work on the issuance of a lifetime electronic ID card, loaded with the holder’s biometrics, and the assignment of an individual birth-to-death social security number for every Filipino.

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LIM VS. ESTRADA: It is fun watching the lively debates between Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and former President Erap Estrada who is challenging his reelection.

Surveys we have seen show Estrada leading the race, which might explain why Lim is running scared and occasionally losing his temper.

Another reason for the mayor’s being on the defensive is that the once proud and regal city of Manila – known in the nostalgic past as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” – is in financial straits, crime-ridden and very filthy.

In the words of Estrada partisans, Manila is “nasa kuko ng kadiLIMan” (in the claws of darkness).

That is sad. Manila is not just any city. It is the national capital.

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SHIFTING HEART: The financial heart of Manila, like the eye of a storm, keeps moving.

At the turn of the century, that heart throbbed in Binondo. Then, it moved to the Escolta, crept up to Santa Cruz — then leaped and emerged in nearby Makati!

At some point, the city showed signs of lagging, in many aspects, behind some of its more aggressive and better managed neighbors.

The casual observer only needs to walk or drive through Manila streets to experience the grime and crime of a neglected capital city.

It is clear that running a city of 1.66 million packed in 38.55 square kilometers – making it the most densely populated city in the country — takes more than experience in police work.

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MONEY WOES: The Commission on Audit has reported that City Hall is deep in debt – to the tune of P3.553 billion, or more than three times its cash holdings of P1.006 billion as of last audit.

Its gross income in 2012 was P9.5 billion, but many city government personnel, including teachers and policemen, are reportedly not getting their allowances on time.

City Hall pays P500 million yearly to its favorite garbage disposal contractor, but mounds of trash still litter the streets, contributing to the filthy ambiance.

Lim’s critics are asking where all the city collections are going. The COA may soon find the answer to that.

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ENERGY LABELS: We note the 2012 circular of the Department of Health, through the Food and Drug Administration, for voluntary Front of Pack (FOP) energy labeling.

The FOP label gives a food product’s energy content, providing consumers a simple and immediate way to make balanced food choices.

But there has to be an information drive on the benefits of knowing the energy content of food. In many poor sections, even in the capital city, some people are content enough to have something, anything, to eat.

Nutrition labels help consumers plan their diet and offer incentives to food companies to improve the nutritional qualities of their products. How many heed the circular?

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CALORIES: Why is energy the most important value to place in the FOP label? The Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) explains:

“Calories are the units of measurement for the energy our body gets from food. Energy is supplied by all foods. Calories do count.”

It is simply about balancing energy. We maintain balance by knowing the amount each type of food adds to our diet and by doing physical activity to lose the excess calories.

Last year, the FDA issued Circular 2012-015 to help consumers get simple and easy information on having a balanced health. That circular is for Front-of-Pack Energy Labeling.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 11, 2013)

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