Militant group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) – Metro Manila led various organizations in holding different forms of protests against the Duterte government’s policy of imposing consumer tax increases through the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

The group said that rallies will be held today in different protest centers all over Metro Manila to mark the first payday of the year.

Starting the day-long protest, members of Metro Manila chapters of Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Gabriela conducted a price monitoring and rally at the Trabajo Market in Manila dubbed as ‘Saan aabot ang P512 minimum wage mo?’ at the Trabajo Market in Sampaloc, Manila.

During the rally, protesters checked the prices of basic commodities and compared the 2017 and present pricing of different products using the Suggested Retail Price of the Department of Trade and Industry. The groups also issued a study on how far the current P512 minimum wage can go amid TRAIN.

According to the study conducted by Bayan Metro Manila, Gabriela Metro Manila, and Kilusang Mayo Uno Metro Manila, a poor Filipino family with five members only has an average daily budget allotment of P70 for food.

Protesters buy food products to check on how poor families spend and stretch their food budget of P70 per day.

P70 CHALLENGE. According to a study led by Bayan Metro Manila, Filipino families only allocate P70 for food.
P70 CHALLENGE. According to a study led by Bayan Metro Manila, Filipino families only allocate P70 for food. Photo by Kathy Yamzon.

“Duterte’s tax reform is a good law…for the rich and powerful like the members of Congress and the president’s cronies. But for the majority of Filipinos, it is an added burden that could worsen hunger, poverty, and precarious living in the country,” says Mong Palatino, Bayan Metro Manila chairperson.

He continued, “It is misleading to say that TRAIN will benefit the middle class because the new law imposes several taxes on consumer goods and services that will affect the cost of living. Worse, the president wants us to thank his government for signing the TRAIN law.”

“How about us, the poor?”

While the tax reform law promises higher take-home pay for workers earning up to P250,000 annually, Bayan Metro Manila says that this provision under the TRAIN will not at all help poor Filipinos and would only add to their daily spending.

“Nakakaawa ang mga bumibili sa amin. Sa sobrang taas ng presyo ng gulay, minsan hindi na nila kaya. Nahihirapan kaming taasan ang presyo ng mga gulay, pero kailangan rin naming gawin kasi mismong ako, hindi na nakakabayad ng upa sa bahay, tubig, kuryente, at pagkain,” said Emily Malit, a vegetable vendor at Trabajo Market. As an example, she noted that one kilo of red onions now costs P90 since TRAIN was implemented.

[I feel sorry for those who buy from us. Because vegetable prices had gone up, sometimes they can’t afford them anymore. It’s hard for us to raise our prices, but we still have to do it because even I can’t pay for rent, water bills, electricity bills, and food.]

“Napakahirap na ng buhay ngayon, lalo pang pinapahirap dahil sa programa ni Duterte sa buwis,” she added.

[Life is so hard nowadays, and with Duterte’s tax program, it’s getting even more difficult.]

For vegetable vendor Emily Malit, increase in basic goods is a bad sign for her and for those who buy from her stall.
For vegetable vendor Emily Malit, increase in basic goods brought about by TRAIN is an added burden for her and for those who buy from her stall. Photo by Erika Cruz.

Metrowide palengke protest

In the afternoon, members of Bayan Metro Manila will hold simultaneous palengke protests in different public markets in Metro Manila to register their rage against tax hikes, which they said, “have already been burdening the shoulders of poor Filipinos.” The group said “the payday rallies today will mark the start of the series of protests against TRAIN in the coming days.”

Rallies and noise barrage protests will be held at the Trabajo Market and Plaza Salamanca in Manila; EDSA-Muñoz Market in Quezon City; Phase 1, Bagong Silang Market, Sta. Quiteria Church in Caloocan City, Malinta Market in Valenzuela City; Alabang Public Market and Poblacion Market in Muntinlupa City; Pasig Palengke; Marikina Public Market; and Brgy. Siling Bata Market in Pandi, Bulacan.

Palatino said, “Duterte is utterly callous to the plight of the poor who are struggling very hard to survive amid the continuing lack of jobs and rising prices. TRAIN is like Tokhang. Both are supposedly for the benefit of all but essentially an attack against the poor. Unlike Tokhang , however, the deadly impact of TRAIN will not be immediately visible.”

“But more and more of our people are realizing that Duterte’s real legacy is not the protection of the poor and powerless but the preservation of elite rule in the country. He (Duterte) should remember that even the most popular presidents of the country can be deposed from power. His generals and cronies can’t protect him once the people he betrayed are marching towards the presidential palace,” ended Palatino.

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