Choking the Ilonggos with higher taxes

The move of the Mabilog administration to fully implement the 2006 schedule of real property tax values to absorb expected financial shortfalls for the city government is a sledgehammer blow to its residents and business community. It will definitely raise property tax payments by 2012 and put a heavy burden on everybody who owns a house and lot, building or even vacant lots. It’s a punishment on the people just so City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog can continue to splurge on his wild spending sprees.

This move will bring the property values from its present 60% level to 100%. Hence, without necessarily undertaking a general revision of the schedule of property values, the city government will be able to raise its property tax base. Our city leaders justify this move as an alternative to a general revision which is required by Republic Act No. 7160, or the Local Government Code, to be conducted every three years to constantly keep the tax base current, and factor changes in property values.

It’s not that the city government under Mabilog will face sanctions for not sticking to the schedule for the general revision. No LGU has really been reprimanded for not revising property values every three years. That provision is really a grant of broad taxing powers to LGUs. It is a mechanism to give LGUs enough elbow room to improve their revenue-generation capabilities.

Moreover, a general revision doesn’t have to mean an upward movement in real property values. We have to keep in mind that the law contemplates values of properties depending on the economic situation. In boom times, property values go up. In bad times, the market could dampen, and property values could go down.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see the timing for the move is bad — very bad. The world is reeling from what is feared to be the worst recession in modern history. Businesses are badly shaken up, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, or about to be lost. Even governments are facing bankruptcy.

The consequences of this global recession will hit the local economy hard. We depend heavily on dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and we’ve seen as early as a year ago thousands of them coming home, their contracts terminated or not renewed. The ranks of the unemployed has swelled, and will continue to swell in the months ahead.

No doubt the city’s leadership has neglected to factor this reality in making this decision to fully implement the 2006 schedule of values for real properties in Iloilo City. The only consideration that impelled it to take such action is the prospect that its share in the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) from the national government will be drastically reduced because of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the cityhood of 16 municipalities. With its share of the IRA pie smaller, the city wants to squeeze real property owners in the city to make up for the shortfall.

This is unfortunate. This is tragic. Instead of helping businesses and property owners cope with the recession, the Mabilog administration will even take to hanging them from the gallows. In situations like this, LGUs would usually seek to tighten their belts, meaning they will try to bring down their expenses. A good mayor or governor knows that it can make do with less in difficult periods like this. The last thing a good leader will do is place more burden on constituents.

Unfortunately, this is the path that Mabilog has taken. It is tragic because everybody will have to carry the financial burden while he continues to squander public funds, and not lift a finger to recover wasted resources as a result of massive corruption. The city has lost more than P130 million from the Pavia housing scam, but Mabilog is letting the crooks go scot-free. Now he is splurging another P260 million for the City Hall project even though his own project construction consultant admitted it could be finished with P45 million.

It would be interesting to see how this unfolds. Will the business community just swallow the bitter pill and let Mabilog get away with murder? Will ordinary property owners just wince in silence and grudgingly pay the higher taxes next year? Will a city allow itself to be strangled while a city mayor wastes their money?

I definitely will not keep quiet.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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