A HOUSEWIFE, interviewed hours before President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III took his oath as the nation’s 15th president, gave a pithy reply to a reporter’s question on her contribution in the new era being ushered by the change of leadership: “I will save.”

The woman added that she hoped those elected to office will be prudent in maintaining lifestyles but not stint on services and programs benefiting the people.

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This citizen’s views coincide with Aquino’s sentiment that, to achieve “a nation where… ‘It all works’,” each one has to contribute to democracy.

Citizenship and taxes

The Cebu City Government recently honored the top 40 business and real property taxpayers and other business and real property owners for being prompt in paying taxes.

According to Sun.Star Cebu’s Linette C. Ramos’s June 27 report, Mayor Michael Ramos and City Treasurer Ofelia Oliva made an appeal for citizens to pay taxes during the Taxpayers’ Outstanding Moment Awards.

Taxes help local governments fund the basic services needed by the constituents. Then outgoing Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña shared his “long-term vision” during the ceremony that taxpayers will enter into a partnership with local governments to achieve self-reliance and autonomy from the National Government.

Recognizing the importance of the civic duty to pay the correct taxes on time, the Department of Finance (DOF) is proposing that tax education be included in the curriculum of public schools.

Last June 28, Elias O. Baquero of Sun.Star Cebu reported that outgoing DOF Secretary Margarito Teves admitted that programs, such as the Run after Tax Evaders, Run after the Smugglers and the Revenue Integrity Protection Service, failed to achieve good results.

While it remains to be seen if Teves’s proposal on tax education will be taken up by the new finance secretary, Cesar Purisima, education is an important avenue to make the youth appreciate the civic duty to pay correct taxes and provide the revenue that is the “lifeblood of government operations and projects.”

Tax literacy will be further boosted if government restores people’s trust and confidence by demonstrating accountability and transparency in its transactions, specifically in ensuring no corruption and wastage of public resources and making public documents accessible through traditional and online channels.

Self-reliance

What is the cost of helping the poor?

Karina Constantino-David, who once headed the Civil Service Commission of the Philippines, believes the government should allot more than the current social protection budget for the poor, which is less than 0.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

According to the July 4 report of Sun.Star Cebu’s Cherry Ann T. Lim, David revealed that P10 billion is helping about 700,000 people under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

David supports expanding the conditional cash transfer program to help the poor, who are increasing.

At the same time, David exhorted that citizens “should change their view of politicians, from that of ‘tagabigay (benefactors)’ to ‘tagasilbe (servants)’,” Lim reported.

Governance should not only revise the public’s perception of politicians but also of their own roles as stakeholders and participants, not just beneficiaries of dole-outs.

Thus, in the DSWD’s program, very poor families have to fulfill obligations, such as taking pre-natal checkups for pregnant wives and responsible parenthood sessions for couples, so they can avail themselves of P500 monthly assistance for at most five years for their health expenses. At least 85-percent school attendance is the prerequisite to receive P300 a month per school year for every child’s school expenses (up to three children per family) in the same program.

Recently, the Cebu City Government had to turn away hundreds of residents because the P49-million funding for its medical program ran out.

Ramos’s July 3 banner story in Sun.Star Cebu reported that residents have been frustrated in seeking free medicines since July 1. Under the program, certified residents can avail themselves of as much as P5,000 worth of medicines after submitting requirements.

While City Hall sources say Mayor Rama will continue the program started last year by then mayor Osmeña, opponents during the May 2010 election alleged that the medical dole-out was a form of vote-buying.

Through prevention, healthy lifestyles and use of cheaper alternative medicine, a public can do its share of promoting wellness, a matter too important to solely entrust on political vagaries.