Sonny Angara: From textbooks to tax books
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara is among the administration-allied neophytes who bagged plum posts as chairman of the ways and means committee handling tax measures. The difference is that unlike his peers, he did not ask for it.
His first choice was education, an advocacy he had since he was Aurora representative for 9 years, and one he shares with his father, the former Senate fixture Edgardo Angara. The committee went to his senior, Senator Pia Cayetano.
Of the 46 bills Angara filed as of April, many aim to broaden access to education, with emphasis on technology and research. These include his old bill on raising the salary of public school teachers, the free college entrance exam bill, open learning and distance education, and ladderized education.
Angara also filed his own version of the whistleblowers bill, and co-sponsored the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, saying, “This is a gut issue actually.”
With the Senate reeling from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) controversy, he joined 14 colleagues in foregoing his 2014 allocation. He is not a member of the blue ribbon committee but still participated in the investigation.
While other senators hogged the pork airtime and slugged it out, the former business reporter preferred tweeting updates from the floor instead of joining the fray. Angara as senator remains reserved, and thinks systems and processes over sound bites.
During the testimony of Dennis Cunanan, he asked the Technology Research Center (TRC) chief about TRC’s mandate and programs, while his colleagues were more interested in which senators got in touch with the witness. The biggest controversy Angara got into? Asking a Binibining Pilipinas contestant a question in Filipino.
A rare show of emotion was when his sports committee held a hearing on the performance of Filipino athletes in the Southeast Asian Games. The sports buff blew his top at the Philippine Olympic Committee over the exclusion of the multi-titled dragon beat team from the delegation. “How can you say they could not win if they won [in the past]? I just cannot understand.”
What made Angara catch the media’s attention lately is his bill lowering the income tax rate from 32% to 25% by 2017. While he admits he is not a tax expert, Angara said he found that the Philippines has the highest taxes in Southeast Asia, an observation economist Cielito Habito shared.
Angara said, “How can a country build your middle class and a responsible citizen if you're overtaxing your citizens? How can they provide for their future for their family?”
Filomeno Sta. Ana III, coordinator of the policy advocacy group Action for Economic Reforms (AER), told Rappler that he agreed with Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares that Angara must first focus on the administration’s priority tax reform measures before removing sources of revenue.
Sta. Ana said a challenge is how Angara will shepherd the rationalization of fiscal incentives bill that could reduce the incentives of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), created through a law he and his father authored.
“I think he is not intellectually opposed to the idea of rationalizing fiscal incentives but it’s far more difficult to push for it given that situation in his home province. Understandably, this is his bailiwick, his dad’s brainchild but you also have the national interest. That could certainly create a dilemma for him,” Sta. Ana said.
Still, Sta. Ana commended Angara for taking on the post to begin with. “Ways and means is crucial in the sense that most reforms we need now relate to revenues. It’s a challenging job. Give credit to the guy that he’s going beyond his comfort zone.” – Rappler.com
See Angara's 2013 candidate profile in our election microsite.
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