MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Medical Association decried a half-page advertisement by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) as “unfair” to Filipino doctors.
The ad, which appeared in a newspaper on Sunday, March 2, showed a doctor piggybacking on a school teacher with a tally of their income showing that the doctor did not pay taxes while the teacher did.
The image was accompanied by the following text: “When you don’t pay your taxes, you’re a burden to those who do.”
While the PMA supports the government’s campaign to collect the proper taxes, “to project to the entire nation through the tri-media that medical doctors are tax cheats per se is absolutely unfair,” said PMA President Dr Leo Olarte in a statement.
He said the ad came as a surprise because the issue of dishonest doctors was never raised by the BIR with the group during their consultations and joint activities.
He supposed that the depiction may have stemmed from the stereotype of doctors as rich but he clarified that many doctors belong to the middle class. In fact, some doctors earn less than P15,000 a month, he said. Government doctors make a little over P20,000 a month, he added.
“This is one of the reasons why there is a overwhelming migration of doctors to other countries. Medical doctors who are in private practice are always faced with charity cases. More than half of their patients are charity or non paying cases and they do not complain,” Olarte said.
He gave assurances that the PMA does not tolerate tax cheats. To ensure doctors properly pay their taxes, the association commissioned a software company to develop an online tax filing system for PMA members. The system involves a mobile phone app which is yet to be accredited by the BIR.
The online tax filing system was a suggestion from BIR Commissioner Kim Henares to help doctors pay their taxes. Since assuming the post, Henares has been aggressive in running after tax cheats.
But Olarte hopes Henares can “temper” future BIR public relations materials which can only create conflict between the two groups.
Doctors, he said, do not deserve to be portrayed as tax evaders.
“The medical profession will never be a burden to this country. Doctors were trained and duty bound to render a very noble service to our beloved countrymen. This involves protecting their health and saving their very lives.” – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
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