Within the day we got a reaction, by text, from Sonny Dominguez. I appreciate hearing from him, but it has very rarely happened since he became Secretary of Finance. He said, “Your call”—whether to quote him or not. I quote:
“Nice piece on the VAT exemption for seniors.
“Please inform Ms Lorayes that I used the figure of P1K for a meal as an example, not P10K.
“Please enlighten Ms Unson that the VAT exemption for medical care and medication will not be taken away. Please also compliment her for her nice pearls.
“Please inform Ms Garcia that the President has ordered the implementation of the FOI [Freedom of Information] for the Executive even without legislation and that all transactions of the Executive are open to the scrutiny by the public. Previous administrations did not do this.
“Isn’t it sad that no one mentioned that the qualifying age for an indigent senior to receive cash subsidies has been lowered from 77 to 60, increasing the budget by about P8 billion, part of which would have been offset by the proposed elimination of the VAT exemption for seniors for most items but not for medical care or medication ?
“Isn’t it a sad commentary on society that those who most can afford it are vigorously resisting the opportunity to share with the least able?”
His reaction has provoked further disapproving comments, with just one agreeing with him.
Araceli Lorayes, a freelance business and finance writer, answers him quite thoroughly, so that she also covers Tina Garcia’s worries over taxes falling into corrupt government officials’ pockets, for which Dominguez offers, with obvious pride, the newly passed FOI executive order. If I may, I’d like to add my husband’s reaction to the FOI executive order.
“It’s still a joke, even if the 166 exemptions have been cut to nine. One exemption does it: the executive department [to which the order applies] can decide any information confidential and therefore refuse to make it public.”
Dear Secretary Dominguez:
Kindly redirect your angst at CNN Philippines, which reported on its webpage on Aug. 27, 2016, in an article written by Claire Jiao, that “A senior citizen who spends P10,000 in a hotel or restaurant, for example, is likely able to afford it anyway. But he or she effectively gets a P1,200 subsidy from the government for what Dominguez said was a ‘luxury.’”
But a poor, elderly person… if he or she spent P1,000 in the market, the government ends up giving a much smaller subsidy of just P120.
Presumably those examples were given by you in the course of the forum which was the subject of the news article. If it was erroneous, I noticed that you made no effort at correction when this example was favorably commented upon by the Inquirer columinist Raul Palabrica (“Senior Citizens discounts,” Oct. 17, 2016.)
About that P1,000 which you claim was a meal, but in the original article was identified as supplies from the market: Do you ever go to the wet market? I do. The vendors do not give senior-citizen discounts, nor do they give receipts or collect VAT. So, contrary to what you say, the P1,000 that the poor elderly person spends in the wet market does not receive any subsidy, whether small or big, from the government. If the government wants the poor to benefit from subsidies for food, then compel market vendors to issue receipts and deduct the corresponding senior discount.
As for lowering the qualifying age of indigent seniors from 77 to 60, thus necessitating an increase in the budget of P8 billion, I will say that this is a good initiative. However, maybe you would like to cut back on some other items and scrutinize the performance and budget utilization of various government offices more closely.
May I suggest that the president’s intelligence fund be reduced from P2 billion to its former level of P500 million? That’s P1.5 billion with one stroke. What does he need an intelligence budget of P2 million for? All branches of the Armed Forces and the National Police and various government offices have intelligence budgets of their own. Will that intelligence budget be used to build up the Kilusang Pagbabago that we keep on hearing about? But of course we’ll never know, because the presidential intelligence fund will be ‘confidential’ and thus not under the Freedom of Information EO. And why is it that we hear of pork barrel for pet projects of lawmakers (“Lacson sees pork in budget,” Inquirer, Aug. 31)?
Now, about your “sad commentary.” First, it is presumptuous of you to assume that we do not share our resources with our less fortunate brethren. Second, I am surprised that a supposedly rational man has to resort to emotional manipulation. Third, a billionaire who has donated P3 million to the election campaign of President Duterte who is now trying to play the class card—oh, wow, that’s really rich.
Dear Secretary Carlos Dominguez:
Noted your remark on retaining the vat exemption for medical care and medication, which is enlightening.
Thank you for the compliment on the nice pearls, which are freshwater ones grown in China and so easily available in the Greenhills tiangge. However, the clasp is the work of our jewelry-exporting company, which continuously trains silversmiths and creates jobs for skilled workers.
I belong to the group of people involved in the jewelry industry, which is now preparing a paper to be presented to you in the New Year. We hope that after more than 30 years of talking with the government, your administration can effect the revolutionary changes needed and we can finally get successful results similar to that in the case our Asean neighbors (Thailand and Vietnam).
As for your final comment, yes, there are many who do not share with the poor, but I think all of us and other like-minded people who made comments here do our share, though quietly, with the least able.
Me, I prefer to do it directly without having to go through third parties that have administrative costs, resulting in lowering the net amounts to be shared. Please note also that it is not only money and goods that are shared, but also time.
My husband Baby and I are on the same page regarding the proposal to remove the VAT exemption for seniors. As we understand it, the idea is to remove the exemption only for food, hotel and airline bills.
Medicine and hospital bills will retain the VAT in addition to the 20-percent senior discount. It sounds like an acceptable proposal, since most of the seniors who use the food, hotel and airline discounts are among the higher-income wage earners.
Susan D. Reyes
I am so against it because I feel we deserve it, but most especially because I see how this government has hiked its budget 10 times. I had not understood the reason for the hike until I saw who goes with the President on his trips abroad, like Sen. Chiz Escudero and his wife, etc. They want to remove our 12 percent for nonessentials like that?
Best to keep VAT exemption. Most seniors are on fixed income, majority are from middle, lower middle and low income bracket.
Besides, the potential collection from the removal of senior VAT exemption is small compared to other sources of tax revenues. Plus, who knows where all the tax revenues go now? Why doesn’t Congress manage our money more efficiently, with less in their pockets so they can share benefits of the country’s progress with taxpayers who are needy? I guess it’s easier to just remove VAT exemption from seniors rather than become better, more honest, and more efficient managers!