We condemn the hypocrisy of Solicitor-General Jose Calida in his statements regarding the impact of the notorious Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. In responding to anti-TRAIN petitions, Calida had the gall to argue that P200 in monthly assistance for poor families would be sufficient to offset the high taxes set by TRAIN, when he himself has been living high on over P7 million in “excess allowances” and earning millions more by breaking conflict-of-interest laws in dealings between his security business and the government.
More significantly, we condemn President Rodrigo Duterte for siding with Calida and refusing to either fire or prosecute him. Despite his vow to end corruption, Duterte has consistently acted to protect officials like Calida, whose allocation of millions to himself is clearly both illegal and immoral.
Duterte claims that he won’t fire Calida because he has been “performing well.” Certainly, Calida has “performed well,” if his job were to defend the anti-people policies of the Duterte administration. Calida has been one of the staunchest defenders of Duterte and his actions, regardless of the actual interests and welfare of the Filipino people.
Calida, ignorant of the real problems of poor Filipino as he lives off his ill-gotten wealth, dismissed the effects of the TRAIN law as “minimal.” However, to the millions of Filipino workers who are contractual or living on or below the minimum wage, the effects of TRAIN — additional taxes on basic goods such as oil, coal, electricity, and vehicles — are massive and devastating.
The best way to truly cushion the poor from the impacts of TRAIN would be to junk the railroaded law altogether. Moreover, Filipino workers are long overdue for a substantial and genuine wage hike, as the gap between the living wage and the minimum wage has grown wider and wider over the past decades. This would be addressed by the passage of HB 7787 or the National Minimum Wage (NMW) bill, now pending in Congress, which abolishes the regional wage boards and their arbitrarily low minimum wage rates, while pushing for an immediate wage hike of P750 and further, regular hikes to keep pace with the living wage, to be set by a national minimum wage board.
We call on Calida to show some delicadeza and resign. We call on Duterte to make good on his promise to improve the lives of the Filipino people: by punishing corrupt officials, and by passing pro-people policies such as the NMW bill.