Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Power to Tax and Taxing Power

Citing Municipal Tax Ordinance No. 743 series of 2007, Mayor Jose T. Villarosa issued a letter addressed to OMECO Manager Alfred A. Dantis informing the latter about the cooperative’s “unpaid tax obligation to the local government of San Jose since 2003.” The letter further stated that billing statements for alleged accounts were already sent by the Municipal Treasurer’s Office but, “not a single centavo has been paid.”

Aside from Municipal Ordinance No. 743, the letter further states that there is a Supreme Court ruling that, “supports and demands for entities like OMECO to pay local taxes” but failed to give basic information on the aforementioned SCRA.

Last August 18, 2010, Dantis responded to Villarosa through a letter signifying the intention of OMECO to comply with Municipal Ordinance No. 743 as long as the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) would allow the cooperative to utilize a payment scheme that would take into consideration OMECO’s present financial status and condition.

It was former Mayor Romulo Festin, Sr. who signed billing statements demanding for the payment which was prepared by the municipal treasurer. OMECO then was headed by its erstwhile General Manager Alex Labrador. Labrador, a known ally of the present mayor, now works with the Municipal Engineering Office of San Jose as consultant. When Labrador resigned at OMECO, the cooperative was believed to be already at the verge of bankruptcy. And the latest National Electrification Administration (NEA)audit findings can attest to this.

If this tax measure will be implemented, the burden would fall on our shoulders, the ordinary member-consumers. It is clear in the letter of Dantis that said tax imposition, “have to be recovered from the member-consumers of San Jose before funds could be made available [?]..” (Bold letters, mine) This tax measure would automatically reflect on our electric bill the moment it is imposed. It’s an additional financial burden for us consumers.

But hopefully, this tax measure - if ultimately imposed - would pave the way for improvement of basic social services for the people of San Jose. With basic services such as education, health, infrastructure and the rest, that came from local taxes,- indeed, we citizens are empowered.

In the same letter, Dantis’ requests to Villarosa are as follows and I am quoting them word for word :

1. “That OMECO be spared of penalties, interests and/or surcharges for the accounts until we could pay the dues – current and amortization of past due obligations – on time after we had the approval from ERC to recover;

2. That OMECO be allowed to spread its payment for the past due obligations for a period of five (5) years minimum – again free from penalties, interests and/or surcharges, on an equal monthly payment basis, and

3. That the charges on poles be limited to those erected in municipal road rights- of- way only, thereby exempting those that are situated on private lots, provincial and national roads?”

I just do not know if the two gentlemen,- Villarosa and Dantis, were already able to sit and talk on the matter. Also, nowhere in both letters gave hint that could lead us directly on what specific tax obligation are they referring to. Was it the charges on service poles?

Calling the attention of those who are privy to the issue and could you inform the public on the details of Municipal Tax Ordinance No. 743? What it is all about? When was it crafted? Who are its authors and sponsors? As a taxpayer and member-consumer of OMECO, could you please educate us on the matter? Please, do not allow such information to be as elusive as our dream of financial stability. Besides, information is power and it is priceless!

What should come first is not the power to tax or taxing power but the empowerment of the taxpayer…

(Photo from Google images)

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