Instead of text tax, cut President’s budget to fund education: solon

MANILA, Sept. 17, 2009—Kabataan party-list in Congress wants Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s budget to be cut, and re-channel a portion of it to fund the education sector, instead of burdening the people with new taxes.

The statement came after the House of Representatives approved the controversial five-centavo (5¢) tax on text messaging.

“If the rationale behind the imposition of a 5¢ tax is to fund education, why not augment the education budget by getting a slice of the President’s pie?” says Kabataan party Rep. Raymond Palatino, also one of the conveners of the consumer’s rights group. TXTPower.

P4Billion fund for the OP

The Office of the President has P4 billion (US$83,118,143.46 based on the September 16, FOREX) for 2010 that can still be cut down by removing “unnecessary” items such as salaries for presidential advisers, overly expensive junkets and other pump-priming projects, says the 29-year-old solon.

The lawmaker also proposes a cutback on the number of presidential advisers and redundant executives in order to save millions of pesos.

“By 2008, the number of presidential advisers and consultants reached an all-time high of 49. Just what exactly are these advisers and consultants doing aside from receiving salaries? Other cabinet officials, such as department heads and assistant secretaries can perform their functions anyway,” Palatino explained.

He also questioned the existence, for instance, of presidential advisers for Trade & Development, Infrastructure, Job Generation, and another for Food Security & Job Creation.

“What is the difference in function of a Presidential Adviser on Job Generation to the Department of Labor and Employment Secretary? Kung pareho lang ang kanilang trabaho, hindi ba’t nagiging sobra-sobra ang nagagastos sa suweldo? (If their functions are the same, why should government spend so much on their salaries?)” Palatino said.

The solon questioned the President’s P150 million in intelligence funds, which only she can approve for release, and the whopping P1 billion for the Commission on Information and Communications Technology’s telecommunication’s office, which merely functions to send telegrams.

Citing a United Nations’ Development Program (UNDP) study, the government could save as much as P58 million a year if it would remove all the redundant executives from the bureaucracy, Palatino furthered.

Burden to the youth

“I am against the text tax as it would burden the country’s 56 million cell phone users, majority of which are students and young workers heavily dependent on texting and other mobile services. [And] despite statements from the authors of the bill and House Speaker Prospero Nograles that the ‘text tax should not add to the burdens of the taxpaying public, these do not guarantee that consumers will not shoulder this additional burden,” Palatino further said.

“It is also an irony that the government wants to tax text when it promotes, at the same time, the people’s use of SMS to send their queries and grievances to the government through its m-governance program,” he added.

Earlier, Kabataan Partylist and TxtPower launched a “texter’s revolt” against text tax. Palatino also urged netizens to join their Facebook cause No Tax on Text and email pro text tax congressmen Danilo Suarez and House Speaker Prospero Nograles. (