Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. But give Lord Allan Velasco the House and he will turn it into a vanity fair in the middle of a raging pandemic.
For nearly a third of Filipino families, fish, as with any other foodstuff, seldom made it to their plates these past few months after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed industries, shut down businesses, and wiped out jobs. Prior to the ambitious Velasco coup, Congress was well on its way to cushioning the crippling effects of the prolonged lockdown. But as Saint Augustine put it, pride made angels into devils.
But make no mistake, the Velasco camp works hard, harder than the devil himself even. Their top priorities? Purging members seen as disloyal to his regime and building a grand legacy that would eclipse that of his immediate predecessor. And these past few months, the power-hungry clique has been paving the road to hell with good intentions. Just recently, the Lower House has been salivating over the idea of changing several economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution. The seemingly noble objective of its proponents is to dismantle restrictions that have been scaring away foreign direct investments and usher in growth that would revive our pandemic-stricken economy.
While these changes are long overdue, we simply cannot “Cha-cha” our way out of the pandemic and the recession that it triggered. As former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano rightly pointed out, “changing our Constitution will not give our people immunity from COVID-19.” Even if these changes are enacted anytime soon, foreign investments will not roll down like a mighty stream overnight. As of the moment, the country has far more urgent needs, including the rollout of vaccines and a stimulus program that would provide immediate relief for small business owners.
Our good legislators at the House of Representatives may have forgotten about the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Reform (CREATE) Bill, the approval of which was delayed by the Lower Chamber’s vacillating and arrogant position on the Senate version. A priority measure of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the Senate approved the CREATE Bill as early as November.
Should it be enacted into law, the CREATE Act would become the largest stimulus program in the country’s history. Among the innovative fiscal strategies embedded in the bill is the granting of tax cuts for business. Corporate income taxes for micro, small, and medium enterprises or MSMEs, a sector that comprises around 99.5 percent of businesses in the country and more than 35 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, would be reduced to 20 percent. On the other hand, large businesses would be cut to 25 percent. Not only would this provide direct financial assistance for business owners, this would boost the current administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, which is expected to generate more than a million jobs and stimulate economic growth in the long run.
Despite the President’s repeated pleas to the Lower Chamber, the current leadership seems to be fixated on exorcising the House of the phantom of the previous Speaker. For them, the CREATE Bill is a ghost that they refuse to confront. Surrounding their insatiable thirst for the President’s favor and the recognition of the Filipino public is the soft and fragile shell of cowardice, loosely held together by the equally frail strands of selfish political interest. Their lack of bravery in asking the hard yet humbling questions means more suffering for Filipino businesses and workers.
As Velasco continues to fish for “legacies” to feed his ego in a haunted lagoon, one of our best shots at securing a stable economic recovery is still languishing underwater.