Last Sunday (March 2), I woke up very relaxed and was looking forward to a quiet breakfast in the garden with my father. I was sipping my coffee when I chanced upon this half-page ad in the newspaper posted by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
It shows a photo of a middle-aged teacher in a classroom and a female doctor sitting on her shoulders. A line at the bottom says, “When you don’t pay your taxes, you’re a burden to those who do”.
The other half page ads were that of an online seller sitting on top of a construction worker and an accountant sitting on top of a kitchen cook.
Firstly, most doctors pay the correct taxes.
Second, and which is what immediately came to my mind, is that how can doctors become a burden to society when we are the ones who heal those who are sick? And that is whether they are able to pay us or not.
With the economy a shambles, where only the very rich are getting richer, we tend to get more and more of the latter for the past two decades.
This has resulted in most doctors earning less than what they are supposed to earn after 15 years of studying, going on night duties, and being dependent to their parents for an extended period of time.
I don’t even want to begin discussing the cost of stress, heartaches, and frustrations that accompany our profession (yes, we still do love our patients more than the money that they pay us).
The difficulty and prolonged period of the “return on investment” is one of the reasons why most of the doctors are leaving the country to practice medicine or even become nurses abroad.
This exodus, which began in 2000, continues today even as the most recent figures from the Professional Regulation Commission show that we only have roughly seven doctors for every 10,000 Filipinos.
The ideal ratio is one doctor for every 1,000 population. (I can’t also help but laugh at Health Sec. Ona’s defensive response that “we don’t have a shortage and maybe we even have more than enough,” but that’s another story).
And now the BIR wants those who chose to stay here and serve the people look like thieves and a burden to the masses?
First, how much has the government recovered from the Napoles fortune? That is the people’s money which they knew was being siphoned off, and yet they did nothing until only last year.
The government and the BIR should have learned something from the Million People March held last year by an outraged tax-paying middle and lower class, cutting across all ages, profession, and economic status. The people questioned and condemned the massive corruption almost to the point of going on a civil-disobedience action like not paying their taxes.
Second, who earned the most in 2013? The economic figures showed that last year’s growth was characterized by increased corporate profits and personal wealth of a few Filipino families (PSE, Business World, Forbes websites).
The total net income of the country’s Top 1000 corporations almost doubled from Php599 billion in 2006 to P1.08 trillion in 2012.
While the cumulative net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos (from the Sy, Tan, Razon, Gokongwei, Ayala, Aboitiz,Consunji, Ty, Cojuangco, Zobel, Yuchengco, Lopez, Araneta, and other families) grew from $16.4 billion in 2009 to $64.2 billion in 2013 (that’s a staggering P 2.9 trillion).
Shouldn’t the BIR be going after these families instead of the struggling doctors, accountants, and young online sellers?
Third, last month (February 4), the Washington-based research and advocacy group Global Financial Integrity group reported that over a 51-year period (1960-2011), the Philippines suffered $132.9 billion in illicit financial outflows from crime, corruption, and tax evasion.[pq]Since 1990, it is estimated that “mis-invoicing” has cost the government at least $23 billion in lost tax revenues.[/pq]
While in November 2012, the International Monetary Fund’s Direction of Trade Statistics reported that smuggling in the country is at its worst under President Aquino’s administration.
The report said that smuggled goods average stood at $19.6 billion annually, an explosion from the comparable figures of $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion yearly during the terms of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, respectively.
The report further stated that in 2011 alone, even as the value of imports rose by 10 percent from the previous year, the Bureau of Customs’ collected duties (under Ruffy Biazon) increased only by a measly 2.2 percent.
Fourth…[pq]the government is authorized to collect taxes from the people by virtue of the highest law of the land, the Constitution.[/pq]
But that is on the understanding that the government is supposed to return that money in the form of social services such as health care, housing, food subsidy, assurance of cheap electricity and water, education, and job security, among others.
But what has the Aquino administration done so far? The Secretary of Health proudly announces that it is open to the privatization of all 72 public hospitals starting with the Philippine Orthopedic Center (sold to Megawide Engineering Excellence and Strategic Alliance Holding Inc. of Chinese taipan Henry Sy).
Billions of pesos’ worth of housing projects for urban poor settlers being declared unfit for habitation; an education system dedicated to create an entire generation of Filipino skilled and semi-skilled laborers instead of scientists, engineers and other professionals needed for industrialization; defective land reform law that has not really delivered its promised salvation for peasants; labor laws that have legitimized “contractualization”, fixed wages, and discourages union building.
I can go on and on with all the anti-people actions of this government which makes us question if it really deserves to handle the people’s money.
In conclusion…[pq]…these facts only tell us that it is rich families and their bureaucratic allies that are having a grand time under the Aquino administration.[/pq]
But to sway the public’s hatred away from them, they decided to do the old, time-tested divide-and-conquer routine and pit the lower class against the struggling middle class.
Telling them through these ads that the former is being oppressed by the latter when in truth and in fact, both are victims of an oppressive government that is dominated by the rich.
But the Filipino people are smart and definitely not dumb. They can see easily through the veneer.
This irresponsible action of the BIR would only worsen the case against them and increase the people’s anger against this government’s inutility and ineptness.
– Dr. Darby Santiago