Lawmakers slam ‘forced volunteerism’ bill

Published by rudy Date posted on May 24, 2011

LAWMAKERS on Monday said the Gawad Kalinga bill was forced volunteerism and patriotism because of the proposed mandatory 1-percent real property tax to subsidize housing for the poor.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone and Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino warned that farmer-beneficiaries in agrarian reform communities and power companies would be hard hit by the new tax, as would ordinary homeowners.

“Farmers were awarded not less than three hectares of land each in the agrarian reform communities and titles have been transferred to them,” Evardone said.

“The bigger the land, the bigger the real property tax and the 1-percent additional tax is another burden for the farmers.”

Evardone, a member of President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party, and Palatino oppose House Bill 4374 being pushed by House leaders, saying volunteerism could not be legislated.

The bill seeks to institutionalize volunteerism-based civil society public-private property framework that would impose on the rich an extra 1-percent real property tax to subsidize housing projects for the poor based on the model developed by the non-government organization Gawad Kalinga.

“It is no longer volunteerism if we impose an additional tax. It is forced volunteerism for our taxpayers,” Palatino said.

The bill’s focus is socialized housing, but the government could fulfill this basic mandate without timposing new taxes and creating another agency, Palatino said.

Evardone said the power companies and cooperatives housing their plants in hundreds of hectares of land would bear the brunt of the additional tax. A 1-percent tax might sound small, but it translated to hundreds of thousands or even millions of pesos.

“How would these power firms and even power cooperatives recover the proposed new tax imposition?” he said.

“Will they pass this on to consumers by way of increasing power rates?”

Evardone also questioned the House leadership’s decision to give preference to Gawad Kalinga, whose chairman, Antonio Meloto, helped the House leaders draft the bill.

“Legislation should not cater only to one civil society group,” Evardone said.

“There are other civil society groups and non-government organizations that may be able to do the job but they are not necessarily into housing,” he said, echoing the Code-NGO’s protest that the requirement of having built 1,000 homes was stringent.

Palatino also echoed Code-NGO’s position that the bill would create another layer in the bureaucracy.

“Why create another agency for socialized housing when government already has a housing department to do just that?” he said.

He demanded to know from the authors how much would be allocated to the civil society group that would run the Volunteerism in Nation-Building agency.

The bill has yet to be deliberated by the House committees on ways and means led by Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas, and on appropriations led by Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Mandanas, who justifies the 1-percent tax imposition, is one of the authors of the bill along with House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. –Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today

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