WATCH | Makabayan bloc asks SC to stop ‘unconstitutional’ TRAIN


MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2 – 1:35 p.m.) Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives asked the Supreme Court on Thursday, January 11, to issue a temporary restraining order and eventually stop the implementation of the Tax Reform for Advancement and Inclusion, or TRAIN, law saying its passage violated both the chamber’s rules and the Constitution.

The main contention of the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by Represenatives Antonio Tino of ACT Teachers party-list, Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, and Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis centered on the TRAIN bill’s December 13 ratification by an almost empty House, which it called:

“… unholy not only because of the lateness of the time, but also because the ratification occurred under appalling, reprehensible circumstances. The bogus ratification was slipped through when the Members, especially its leadership, were not attending the session in Congress but outside its halls, with some even partying at a five-star hotel. It was a case of a fictitious congressional act without the Members of Congress themselves.”

‘MAY BOTO KAHIT WALANG TAO’ | Lawmakers say TRAIN ratification by empty House ‘invalid’

The petition, officially filed as G.R. No. 236118 at 11:38 a.m., also called TRAIN a “grand deception” for, while ordinary taxpayers stand to gain more take-home pay, the law’s other provisions, especially the increases in excise taxes, would negate any gains because of “higher costs of food, water, electricity, everything,” which the petition pointed out, “will be felt by those who do not even have payslips, by the farmer or fisher who have to contend with higher costs of production, and even by the unsalaried like a student or simple commuter.”

The petition names President Rodrigo Duterte, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Jr. as respondents.

“Congress is bereft of authority or power to validly pass laws — especially anti-people ones widely contested by the people such as TRAIN — when it brazenly disregards the quorum requirement, a very basic rule of democracy and even elementary rules of order. What should always apply is the Constitution and the so-called rule of law, not the Rule of the Railroad,” said Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which assisted in the filing of the petition.

As for Duterte, the petition alleged grave abuse of discretion on his part “for signing the invalidly ratified TRAIN.”

Solicitor General Jose Calida sparked a word war with the activist lawmakers when he posted a mocking tweet in response to the petition:

Anong ibig sabihin niyan? Ang solicitor general mismo minamaliit ang requirement ng Constitution (What does that mean? The solicitor general himself is belittling the requirements of the Constitution) …” Tinio said, reacting to Calida.

Casilao, for his part, said: “Kapag ganito na ang mga palaging statement ng isang solgen wala ka talagang maasahan na papabor sa interes ng taumbayan na maapektuhan ng TRAIN na ito (If statements of the solgen are always like this, you cannot expect him to side with the interests of the people who will be run over by this TRAIN).”

NUPL chairman Neri Colmenares, a former Bayan Muna representative, stressed that “we are not against the lowering of personal income taxes for the people, especially marginal and middle-income earners who make up majority of our society.”

He described TRAIN as a “deceptive bigay-bawi (give and take) law for it takes away from the people what it gives in the form of regressive taxes,” such as the “new and heavier excise taxes on oil products, coal, and sugar-sweetened beverages and further expansion of the VAT.” (with a report from JV Arcena, News5)