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CO-SPONSORSHIP SPEECH

Senate Bill No. 2890


by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph
G. Recto
10 August 2015
It has been said that a governments
greatness is measured by how it treats
those who are in the dawn of life, the
children; those who are in the twilight of life,
the elderly; and those who are in the
shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the
handicapped.
The same test applies to Congress as well,
where on tax matters, we will be adjudged
more by how we have helped those who
have fallen through cracks, than by how we
were able to plug the leaks.
Mr. President:
This bill is about those in the shadows the
hidden many who do not have the muscle to
lobby, nor possess the powerful voice for

them to be heard above the clamor of the


political season.
Some are not capable of speech. But their
muted state explains far more eloquently
than words could ever be on why this bill
must be passed.
This bill has two aims:
First, to exempt persons with disability
(PWDs) from paying the VAT on certain
goods and services.
Second, to provide additional income tax
exemption to those who are caring for a
PWD.
Among the goods and services to be taken
out of VAT coverage are medicines; medical
and dental services; hospital and laboratory
fees; and local transport fares.
So if a PWD rides a plane, train, ship or bus
to any local place, he will not pay the sales
tax on the ticket. And if, upon reaching his

destination, he orders food in a restaurant in


the hotel where he is checked in, he does
not pay a VAT on both.
Second, this bill seeks to make a person
with disability a dependent for income tax
purposes.
A child, parent, or even a legal guardian of a
PWD, regardless of age, who is incapable
of self-support, can therefore claim
additional tax exemption for the said
dependent.
The tax deduction is the same as what is
currently claimed by a parent of a child not
over the age of 21, which is 25,000 pesos
annually.
Because the bill specifies the caregiver as
the one who can avail of the exemption,
then a child who has a disabled parent in
his care under his roof can claim the tax
relief.
This is in response to the situation faced by

millions of families today who have turned


their residences into homes for the aged.
This is so because we have a culture which
frowns upon the practice of letting strangers
care for a parent. Even for those who are
willing and wealthy enough to buck
convention, there are few such facilities
here.
This has forced many of us to put hospital
beds in our roomswith a pharmacy we
can barely stockto care for our elders who
draw comfort from familiar faces, as much
as from modern medicine.
It is only right to remove the age criteria for
a PWD-dependent because caring for him
or her does not have a fixed expiry date. In
many cases, it extends from cradle to grave.
So before those who have a zero-tolerance
against tax breaks can whip out their
calculators and show the multiple zeros to
scare us that this bill will hemorrhage funds,
the question that should be asked of them

first is this: Is P25,000 a lavish or labis


reimbursement for the annual cost of caring
for a PWD? Or is it kulang?
The parents of an autistic child who make
ends meet to pay for an exhausting and
expensive care for their child will say: It is
not enough.
The guardians of a paraplegic who push
him up footbridges so he can attend school
and himself to his dreams will say: It is not
enough.
The children of those in the twilight of life
who are slowly being robbed of memories
but still rage, rage against the dying of the
light, will say: It is not enough.
The siblings of a teener who had and would
never see a sunrise, or the glow of a full
moon, who sees the world through the
raised dots in a paper, will say: It is not
enough.
In fact, Mr. President, even if we pass this

bill, and even if we make it more generous,


it wont be enough to pay for what we owe
the PWD nation.
So let this be just our continuing
amortization of the huge debt we owe them
as we vow to increase our subsequent
payments.
For example, with the budget season about
to start, we can install more and wider
accessibility ramps in next years national
budget.
In the current years budget, there is a P100
million earmark for the purchase of books
and equipment for special education. We
should expand this next year.
We can also attach a special provision to
the DepED budget which pegs the number
of special education classrooms to be built
next year.
Also in the 2015 budget is a provision which
reserves the supply of 15 percent of all

school furniture to cooperatives run and


managed by PWDs. This procurement
earmark is worth P180 million.
This provision should also be applied to
other goods as well. Yearly, we have a long
shopping list of equipment which many
qualified PWD coops can supply.
We should insist on this because PWDs
themselves would tell us that the best form
of help is a hand up, not a hand out.
We should include PWDs in the CCT
program because in the hardship index,
none is more deserving of assistance than a
disabled person, crippled by poverty.
We should do away with conditionalities
because disability in itself is the best
precondition for enrolment.
Also in the DSWD budget, we should
increase its scandalously-low budget of P11
million for assistance to persons with
disability.

We should direct more public works funds to


construction activities that will make streets,
sidewalks, pedestrian overpasses, public
buildings, highways fully compliant with
accessibility laws.
And to enforce this, we can even command
the DPWH to hire PWD consultants to
check on the quality of work.
I am mentioning these, Mr. President,
because increasing the funds for PWDs
programs require initiatives in both the
revenue and appropriations side.
So whats the best companion measure to
this bill? It is without doubt the national
budget.
We should do all of the above, in addition to
passing this bill, because it has been said
that the worst kind of disability is being
paralyzed from coming to the aid of those
who need help.

Much remains to be done. Let me say,


however, that we cannot be accused of
having Attention Deficit Disorder with
respect to the plight of the PWDs.
I already mentioned the various budget
initiatives which, I will be the first to
concede, need to be increased and
expanded.
Second, let me point out that in the last
Congress, when it was the Senior Angara
who was here and not the Better Angara,
the bill on granting higher income tax
exemptions for PWDs, which I authored,
was passed by the Senate, and the House
passed its version too, but failed to be
reconciled by a bicameral conference.
There is also the apprehension that this bill
will be hard to implement, a fear being
fanned so as to abort it, but which falls flat
on its face on two counts. First, theres
already a system being followed with
respect to VAT exemptions granted to
seniors; second, on the matter of increasing

tax deductions for PWDs, it will not


complicate filing as much as the new
complicated ITRs do.
Implementation can be hurdled. Yes, work
needs to be done, but this pales in
comparison to the handicap and hardship
that PWDs have to overcome every day.
The challenge is to do more for them
because at 1.6 million, both their number
and the neglect they suffer are too many
and too severe to be ignored.
Maraming salamat po.