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MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino said on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, that Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas was replaced as chair of the powerful House ways and means committee for his refusal to support administration measures, and not because of his failure to sign the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“”It has nothing to do with the impeachment,” the President told reporters in a chance interview in the Palace. “It has all to do with his being chairman of a committee on Ways and Means and adopting a position not supported by anybody else.”
He said that as chair of the ways and means committee, Mandanas is primarily tasked with seeking measures that would reduce the budget deficit through more fund-generating measures. But the congressman’s proposals had been contrary to this goal.
Mandanas wanted value-added tax on imports, which total P500 billion annually, to be added to the computation of the internal revenue allotment of local government units when the 1991 Local Government Code specifically excludes this from the computation of the IRA, according to the President.
“Instead of looking for ways to generate revenues, he wants to add P500 billion to the IRA. That’s a large part of our P1.8-trillion budget,” he said.
The President also said one of the priority measures of the administration is the indexation of sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products to inflation, estimated to generate P60 billion to fund universal health care coverage, but Mandanas pushed for his own version that had loopholes.
The President said Mandanas “knows fully well that in so many instances he was requested that this is the way to solve the problems with regard to sin taxes” for example, and the VAT on imports.
“He didn’t want to agree, so sorry. You do not own that position by virtue of being elected to Congress. You owe the position by virtue of the fact that you’re part of the majority coalition that seeks to have chairmen who are representative of their views,” Mr. Aquino said.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad expressed confidence that the new committee chair, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, would push for the administration’s priority fiscal measures such as the indexation of sin taxes to inflation and the rationalization of fiscal incentives.
Purisima told Palace reporters Mandanas was replaced because of his numerous “policy differences” with the administration.
“If you are chairman of the ways and means [committee], it’s important that you reflect the views of the majority and the President’s coalition,” Purisima said.
Asked if the replacement of Mandanas would help speed up the passage of the fiscal reform measures such as sin taxes, Purisima said, “We just sat down with the replacement. Rep Ungab ,and we’re talking already how we can improve further our fiscal program. So it’s a better relationship rather than endlessly debating.”
He said that he had been in discussions with Mandanas but they have been locked in debate for too long, stalling the real work on the priority fiscal measures.
“I like to discuss but there must be an end to the debate. Our debates started even before we took office,” Purisima said.
Abad said Mandanas had been a “lingering problem” for the administration coalition.
“He has been given a lot of time but he insisted on pushing his own agenda. We had a Ledac [Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council], he was told, and subsequently, he was also advised by the Speaker that you should push the legislative agenda of the President insofar as the fiscal measures,” Abad said, but Mandanas did not.
He said that in the case of Mandanas’ proposal that the VAT on imports be added to the IRA, the lawmaker was told not to push for it “because that would be detrimental to our fiscal position but he insisted and he refused to follow.”
“That seat does not belong to him, it’s a privilege that he enjoys and the majority coalition grants him that seat provided that you tow the legislative agenda of the majority. That’s really the only reason….If he’s pushing another measure, that really leaves us with no other option but to give way to somebody who can carry the administration or the coalition agenda,” Abad said. – Rappler.com