MANILA,  August 11, 2004
By Jess Diaz - A maverick pro-administration senator warned President Arroyo yesterday of "a new breed of terrorists" in her Cabinet and among her hundreds of allies in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

By "terrorists," Sen. Joker Arroyo, who is not related to the President, was referring to all the proponents and supporters of new taxes.

"The President must rein in the tax terrorists in her Cabinet who keep on badgering, ‘we must bite the bullet, otherwise we would have a fiscal deficit,’ as if Congress does not know the deficit we face," he said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo would be committing "political suicide" if the administration, with the support of its allies in Congress, succeeds in imposing new taxes, including the proposed P2-per-liter additional levy on gasoline and other petroleum products.

"To impose additional taxes on oil at this time of surging international price of oil would be political suicide. That would be a double whammy to consumers. And it would become a triple whammy when the price of goods increases as a consequence of the increase in cost and tax of oil. That will hit the C, D and E social classes. Classes A and B can bear it," he said.

The President presented the tax proposals during her State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress last July 26. She said the proposed levies would mean additional P80 billion for the treasury.

Senator Arroyo said the alternative to not imposing new taxes "is (for revenue agencies) to collect P80 billion under present laws."

"That means increasing the revenue collection by 10 percent. That means that the tax burden will not be passed on to the taxpayers but to the tax collectors," he said.

He said the first task of the Senate committee on ways and means, which is chaired by Ralph Recto, is to find out whether the tax collecting agencies can improve their performance.

"All tax proponents in the executive will be asked that simple question. No new tax measures will be discussed unless that question is answered satisfactorily. Let us see how the tax terrorists will perform," he added.

Like Arroyo, Recto has expressed opposition to the planned P2-per-liter tax on petroleum products.

At a time when the price of crude in the world market is at its record high, the plan would be like "adding gasoline to the fire," said Recto.

The P2 gas tax bill was introduced in the House by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who belongs to the pro-administration Liberal Party. Over the weekend, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, a key House ally of Mrs. Arroyo, said the administration is bent on imposing the additional gas levy and other taxes.

Suarez authored the controversial road users‘ tax law that was passed by the 11th Congress. The law doubled the annual registration fees for the more than three million motor vehicles in the country.

He is also believed to be the brains behind the election-related P1.4-billion "Kalsada Natin, Alagaan Natin" emergency employment program of Mrs. Arroyo. The program was funded out of road users’ tax collections. It lapsed as soon as the May presidential elections were over.

Before running for congressman again, Suarez was vice chairman of the Road Board, the agency that oversees the spending of road users’ tax collections.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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