Fatherly advice

Published by rudy Date posted on October 21, 2011

Quezon City is really one of the richest cities in the country today. It may not be the main business hub, but its coffers have a huge surplus amounting to billions of pesos, thanks to the prudent and competent fiscal management of the past administration under former Mayor and now Speaker of the House of Representatives Sonny Belmonte.

Indeed the city is the haven of the country’s middle class. It is the place where a great majority of businessmen, professionals and well paid managerial or rank and file employees in the government and private sector choose to establish their residence and eventual retirement homes. They found the place accessible and with beautiful natural terrain that combines urban and rural settings. For this reason, even the major schools, colleges and universities have already relocated their campuses in the city mainly because they found the city’s atmosphere and terrain more conducive to institutions of learning where students can get a well rounded education. The middle class indeed is the main lifeblood of the City so they should at least be informed of any measure adversely affecting them.

One such measure is this latest city ordinance authored by Councilor Edcel Lagman Jr. of the fourth district that will add a P500 tax on real properties in Quezon City with an assessed value of P100,000 or more. Undeniably, most of the property owners affected by this ordinance come from the middle class. But they learned about it only at this stage when it has already been approved on third and final reading!

It may be true, as alleged, that a public hearing has been conducted prior to its enactment. But very few came to know about it. Obviously said hearing was called and conducted just to go through the motions of formally complying with the requirements of the Local Government Code (LGC). But even assuming that there was such a hearing, the same is not enough.

Under Section 242 of the LGC, before the enactment of said ordinance, the council must also “notify in writing the owners of the real property to be affected or the persons having legal interest thereon as to the date and place of the hearing to afford the latter the opportunity to express their position or objection relative to the proposed ordinance”. Clearly this requires personal notice in writing to each and every landowner affected. But was there such notice sent? Obviously there was none because most of these landowners have learned about it only recently when the ordinance was already a done deal.

To be sure, this ordinance is really within the power of the City government to enact through the city council in the exercise of its power of taxation. Pursuant to Section 18 of the LGC it can really levy taxes to provide means of support for the government. But for its valid exercise certain conditions must be met.

First of all, it must be exercised “for the general welfare” (Section 16, LGC) and only for “public purposes” (Section 130 (a) 2 LGC). In this particular ordinance, the proposed additional tax on real properties will be used to fund the socialized housing for informal settlers in the city. Informal settlers are mostly private persons illegally occupying private lands belonging to private individuals. Therefore it is not for a public purpose, neither is it for the general welfare as it is even detrimental to majority of the middle class taxpayers who will bear the burden of additional taxes. On the other hand, if the informal settlers are occupying public lands, why should the private taxpayers bear the cost of providing them with houses? Indeed, some critics even conclude that this ordinance is only designed to capture the command votes of these informal settlers during elections.

Secondly the beneficiaries of the ordinance are “informal settlers” or more commonly known as squatters. Most of them illegally occupy lands belonging to others without paying the realty taxes thereon which are still taxable to and must be paid by the landowners despite already being deprived of the use thereof. Following this ordinance the landowners may still be constrained to pay additional taxes (if their lands have assessed value of P100,000 or more) for the benefit of the squatters who are already depriving them of the use of their lands. This is clearly unjust and inequitable and thus contrary to the provisions of Section 130 (a) [1] and [3] of the LGC.

Thirdly, because of this additional tax, the deprived landowners may not be able to meet the additional expenses of increased taxes since they do not earn anything from their lands. Hence the lands may even be eventually levied and sold at auction for non-payment of taxes. In such cases, the ordinance is in effect confiscatory in violation of Section 130 (a) [3] of the LGC.

Of course the ordinance’s social intention to help the less fortunate people in the city is commendable. Everybody should really be concerned about the plight of the less fortunate ones. Actually, the private sector especially the more affluent ones are already helping them more especially through the Gawad Kalinga housing projects and other humanitarian services of religious and civic organizations. Opposing the ordinance therefore does not mean they are anti-poor.

If the city government would like to also help the poor, it should not be carried out at the expense of the taxpayers some of whom are even victims of squatting. Even if the taxes are only some sort of a loan from the taxpayers that will be repaid after five years, it does not look right that the city will still borrow when it has plenty of money. With its present financial standing, the city can definitely afford to fund these socialized housing projects.

Besides the millions spent for putting up those expensive flower boxes and elaborate sidewalks along major thoroughfares as well as the numerous billboards announcing various projects with the attractive names or initials of city officials in big bold letters could have been used first for those socialized housing projects.

This is not in derogation of our city officials but a fatherly advice coming from somebody who knows most of them and wants them to do well in their careers because they are the future leaders of our country. They should break away from the usual patronage politics and image building for name recall. Instead they should render genuine public service and build up good performance record which is their ticket to greater heights in the political firmament.  –Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star)

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