Duterte wants Senate to pass tax reform in full, zeroes in on Angara

Mara Cepeda
Duterte wants Senate to pass tax reform in full, zeroes in on Angara
The President tells Senator Angara to 'watch out in the elections' after noticing the legislator did not clap on his request for the passage of the tax reform bill

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte urged senators to pass his administration’s first batch of tax reforms, but also called out Senator Juan Edgardo Angara for not clapping after he made the during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Angara chairs the Senate ways and means committee, which has indicated it won’t pass the version of the bill proposed by the President’s economic team. Proceeds from the tax reform package are expected to fund the bulk of the administration’s infrastructure program

In his speech on Monday, July 24, Duterte said the fate of the tax reform bill is now in the Senate after the House approved it on 3rd and final reading with a vote of 246-9-0. (READ: Duterte certifies tax reform bill as urgent)

Ano ba’ng gusto ninyong gawin [ko], lumuhod ako diyan? (What do you want me to do, kneel in front of you?) Well, really, [I] leave it up to you. We’re all Filipinos. If you think it’s a waste, fine. If you think it’s not good, okay with me. I call on the Senate to support my tax reform in full and to pass it without (sic) haste,” said Duterte. 

The President noticed, however, that only a few of the senators seated before him clapped when he made the request. He first questioned the senators in general over this before zeroing in on Angara.

Ayaw mang magpalakpak? Pati si ano wala (You don’t want to clap? Even that person is not doing it). They are not clapping. Si Angara ayaw ring mag-clap. Bantay ka lang sa eleksyon, tignan mo (Angara also doesn’t want to clap. You watch out in the elections),” said Duterte. 

Angara only chuckled in his seat.

In an interview after Duterte’s SONA, Angara considered the President’s statement as a threat.

Kumbaga meron na rin [threat] doon sa re-election nga (Perhaps you can consider it a threat in the re-election). If we don’t pass it, baka (maybe) we won’t be in the good graces of the administration. It is what it is,” said Angara, who is planning to run for senator again in the 2019 polls. 

Still, he reasoned Duterte tends to make jokes. 

Angara then said he would have to discuss the President’s request with his colleagues, who have expressed reservations over the tax reform bill.  

Not set in stone 

Among those calling for a Senate debate on the tax reform is minority Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV. 

Definitely pag-uusapan pa ‘to. May mga bagay po doon na maapektuhan ang presyo ng mga bilihin…. Palagay ko po kailangan pagdebatehan,” he said. (Definitely we will talk about this. There are provisions there that will affect the prices of commodities…. I think we need to debate this.) 

Senator Richard Gordon also said the public should not expect the Senate to pass the measure in full immediately just because Duterte said so.  

“The President is our friend, but we don’t march to all his drum beat,” said Gordon.

Wala pa kong nakitang Presidente na nakuha niya lahat ng tax package niya. Sa lower house makukuha niya kasi doon nanggaling ang tax measure sa lower house. Pagdating sa Senado, doon may preno nang onti,” he added.

(I haven’t seen a President who is able to get his full tax package. The lower house will agree to it because the measure came from them. But when it reaches the Senate, that’s when there will be resistance.) – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.