Court orders government to answer petitions against TRAIN law implementation

THE Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Palace, the Senate and the House of Representatives to answer the  two petitions questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act 10963, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

At a news briefing, SC Spokesman Theodore O. Te said the 15-man High Tribunal issued the directive during its regular en banc session on Tuesday.

Specifically, Te said the magistrates gave the respondents a period of 10 days to submit their comments on the petitions and the applications for temporary restraining
order (TRO).

The Court also directed the consolidation of the second petition filed by the Laban Konsumer Inc. on Monday, through its president Trade Undersecretary Victor A. Dimagiba, to the first petition filed by party-list Representatives Antonio L. Tinio of ACT Teachers,
Carlos T. Zarate  of Bayan Muna and Ariel B. Casilao  of Anakpawis.

Aside from assailing the constitutionality of TRAIN, both petitions are seeking the issuance of TRO to immediately enjoin its implementation.

In its  40-page petition, Laban Konsyumer Inc. assailed  the imposition of excise taxes on petroleum products and coal under the new tax measure, claiming that this would
further bring down  those belonging to the low income and poor families, whose resources are extremely finite for their subsistence.

“The increase and/or imposition of excise taxes on coal, liquefied petroleum gas [LPG], diesel and kerosene are clearly violative of the basic principles and inherent limitations on Philippine taxation,” the petitioners said.

The group further argued that the TRAIN law also violates due process, and equal protection clause, as the “exorbitant excise taxes on basic commodities stand to greatly impact and impose heavy financial burden on low-income and poor families.” It branded TRAIN law as “inequitable and regressive,” insisting that taxation is equitable only when its burden falls on those who can afford to pay.

“If the TRAIN law is truly the biggest gift of the government to the Filipinos, then by all means, the provisions, thereof, should muster the test as to its reasonability and propriety, particularly in relation to the segment of our society whose voice we have long forgotten­—the majority of the Filipinos who have less in life and, incidentally, those who may not fully understand the full extent of the TRAIN law,” the petition read.

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay, House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III.

TRAIN, signed into law by President Duterte last December 19, was the first package of the government’s proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, seen generating additional revenue to fund the country’s investment requirements.

On the other hand, the first petition argued that the TRAIN should be struck down for having been ratified by the House of Representatives and enacted by the President in violation of the House Rules and the 1987 Constitution.

The petitioners said that the respondents committed grave abuse of discretion when they ratified the final bicameral conference committee  report on the night of December 13, 2017, despite lack of quorum necessary to vote on its passage.

The petitioners noted that Section 16 (2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and Section 75 of Rule XI of the House Rules mandate the House to comply with the quorum requirement of majority of the House membership before they can do any legislative business.

The petitioners, however, claimed that around 280 out of the total 295 members of the House were absent during the ratification stage.

Aside from lack of quorum,  the petitioners added that the second equally important requirement, which is the majority vote, was also not met.

They said that the requirements of quorum and approval of bills are constitutional mandates.

Likewise, the petitioners insisted that there was also grave abuse of discretion on the part of the President when he enacted the TRAIN bill, which was not validly passed by Congress.

Named respondents were President Duterte, Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Raneo E. Abu, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo L. Fariñas Sr. and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur R. Defensor Jr.

The respondents in the second petition are Medialdea, Dominguez, Dulay, Alvarez and Pimentel.

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