Press Release
June 8, 2011

Speech of Sen. Ralph G. Recto
On the confirmation of Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima

Mr. President:

Our honored guest today is the man responsible for translating our campaign rhetoric into reality.

Without him, we'll appear as liars in front of our people, as candidates who promised much in the hustings, but delivered little when elected.

So in order to redeem our campaign pledges, we tinker with the budget, moving a million here and a million there, to projects we have promised as candidates.

He's the man responsible for raising those millions. Because in the division of labor in appropriating money, while it is the Budget people who get the credit, it is he who must raise the cash.

And how much must he raise? P1.65 trillion a year or about P4.5 billion pesos a day lang naman. If government were a taxi, he's the designated payor of the the P187 million meter charge per hour.

And that, Mr. President, is a hard job to do in a political culture that sees spending taxes as a virtue, but collecting them as a sin; which treats their evasion as a duty, but their imposition a crime.

The fact is, we have begun to treat taxes as text promos : we want to pay little for unlimited services.

And that thinking has even infected many of those in government whose concept of good governance is to spend as much money for as many voters while granting as much tax breaks to as many of them - in time for the next election.

But to his credit, the nominee, nor his office, and neither have their principal, have proposed new revenue measures.

Because I was there, I can tell you that of the bills which were discussed in the recent LEDAC meeting, not a single one was about new taxes.

Although the President's mouth was occasionally covered in smoke during breaks where we savored a product from which P32 billion in excise tax is collected a year, I was still able to read his lips and it still says "no-new-taxes."

But how does the nominee plan to raise money for the increasing needs of a growing population?

He says he will try administrative measures first because he knows that new taxes will only punish those who have been religious paying their taxes while exempting those who have already been religiously avoiding theirs.

Among these measures is to make honest men out of taxmen through various transparency, integrity and anti-corruption measures.

This is good because the law only says we must pay taxes. There's nothing in the tax code that says that we must leave a tip or pay extra for good service. Good performance at work, after all, is not VAT-able.

He promises to simplify tax payments, and make revenue offices more accessible, so that this legalized robbery called taxation can at least be a pleasant exercise to the robbed.

On this matter, I've told him to cut reportorial requirements for small businesses because the way things are, even a Mom-and-Pop operation has to put a person in its payroll just to attend to BIR concerns almost full-time.

As a wag has said, "Why should it take more brains and effort to make out the various BIR income-tax form than it does to make the income?"

But the biggest among the efficiency measures, I must say, is the plugging of tax holes administratively and on these he can't plead lack of knowledge because as one of the country's former - and still is, I presume - tax accountants, he knows where in the labyrinth of tax laws and in the maze of rules can taxable wealth be hidden.

Some of you may doubt his desire to turn his back on the accounting religion but I know that public interest dominates him now more than his private past does.

I am convinced that his exodus out Ayala Avenue has been his own road to Damascus and that while he is still casting a moist eye toward the corporate world and its perks and privileges after his stint in public service, I know that he will leave a legacy of plugging the tax loopholes through which corporate Philippines breathes.

Mr. President, the nominee's curriculum vitae has been provided to us.

You will read there the good schools he had gone through, his rise to the corporate world, and his previous stint in the Finance department which was marked by two hard, moral decisions: First was to say 'hello' to new taxes. And second was to say 'goodbye' to his boss.

As to his being a good taxpayer, because he must be a poster boy for tax obedience, I think he has displayed patriotism when he opted to avail of the exemptions of a married man so late, in fact so very late, in life.

There's no sacrifice greater for fiscal good than that.

Before I close my nominating speech for him, let me remind the good secretary that his shareholders are the Filipino people and the way to make them happy is not to scrimp on spending but to let them enjoy the dividends of their tax payments. I am not yet ready to canonize him as the apostle of austerity but recent data on spending showed a disturbing drift toward a kind of parsimony that harms the public more than it helps them.

Reporting a surplus created out of withholding services and strangling infrastructure work can never be a fiscal virtue. And please do not sugarcoat underspending as an anticorruption initiative because it is not.

On the contrary, it is antiprogress because funding delayed is development denied. Hindi nangangahulugan na ang daang matuwid ay dapat mabagal.

Because he has promised to do the above, then Mr. President, dear colleagues, it is therefore my honor to endorse the confirmation of the appointment of Cesar Purisima as Secretary of Finance.

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