OPPOSITION lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc on Thursday, January 11, asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law, saying it was approved by the House of Representatives despite lack of a quorum and a vote.
In their petition filed before the SC Thursday morning, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said that there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of the House when it failed to vote on the Train bill.
This was in violation of Section 16 (2), Article VI of the Constitution, which requires a quorum.
The lawmakers also said the passage of the bill violated Section 63, Rule X of the House of Representatives, which states that a "conference committee report shall be ratified by a majority vote of the Members of the House present, there being a quorum.”
The House ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the tax reform bill on December 13, 2017. It was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 19.
The Makabayan solons said the ratification of the report occurred at an "unholy hour" and was invalid as there were barely 10 people who attended the plenary session.
It can be recalled that Tinio and Zarate objected to the motion to approve the bicameral conference committee report on the Train law for lack of quorum, but they were ignored by Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, and Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr.
"Unholy not only because of the lateness of the time, but also because the ratification occurred under appalling, reprehensible circumstances," the petition read.
It added: "the bogus ratification slipped through when the members, especially its leadership, were not attending the session in the Congress, but outside its halls, with some even partying at a five-star hotel. It was a fictititous congressional act without the members of the Congress themselves."
The lawmakers said there was also grave abuse of discretion on the part of President Rodrigo Duterte when he signed the bill into law despite questions on the validity of its ratification by the House.
Named respondents to the petition are President Duterte, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Jr.
After the filing the petition, the lawmakers said in a statement that they hoped the SC's ruling will send a message to the leaders of Congress that they cannot just pass a law without a quorum and without a vote and that they have to strictly observe the Constitution.
The lawmakers said they were also planning to file another petition against the "regressive" and "burdensome" tax reform package.
"Our study shows that whatever supposed benefits the employees income tax adjustments will give are easily wiped out by the inflationary effects of the new regressive taxes on oil, coal, power and other commodities and services," they said.
"While we file this petition today questioning the procedural infirmities of Train, we will continue to seriously study the filing of another petition against the regressive and burdensome new tax impositions of the Train," they added. (SunStar Philippines)