By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros is urging the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) not to implement a higher withholding tax on the compensation of teachers doing poll duties in this year’s national and local elections.
The senator disclosed that a number of teachers tapped for election duties have been blindsided by the BIR’s move and the COMELEC’s consent to increase the withholding tax on poll work pay — from 5% in 2019 to 20% this year.
“I ask that the BIR and the COMELEC defer the collection of the 20% tax. Gaya ng karamihan ng ating mga kababayan, nagsisimula pa lang ang ating mga gurong bumangon mula sa dagok ng pandemya. Kaya napaka-wrong timing talaga at sobrang lupit ng tax increase na ito,” said Hontiveros.
To recall, Hontiveros had successfully defended the COMELEC budget, allowing the increase in teachers’ honoraria and instituting measures to COVID-proof the election.
Under COMELEC Resolution No. 10727, the pay rates of teachers who will serve in the upcoming May 9 polls include P7,000 for the chairman of the electoral board in each voting precinct; P6,000 for each board member; P5,000 for the supervising education official; and P3,000 for each support staff.
“Kapag nabawasan ng 20% ang matatanggap ng teachers, ano na ang matitira sa kanila? Sa katunayan, dapat ngang i-exempt sa tax ang election service compensation. The next best thing we can do is to keep it at 5%. It’s the least we can do for them. The 20% withholding tax is just too much,” said Hontiveros.
The senator further urged the BIR and the COMELEC to immediately respond to the teachers’ concerns by organizing a dialogue with the group.
Hontiveros said: “They really shouldn’t insist on implementing this tax increase now. Kung sa boksing ito, eh hindi pa nga nakakatayo ‘yung tao matapos ma-knockdown ng pandemya ay pupuruhan na ulit ng suntok sa mukha. Huwag namang ganito. Tumbasan naman natin ang sakripisyo ng ating mga guro.”
Hontiveros has pushed for the declaration of an “educational crisis” and the implementation of a targeted emergency plan due to the challenges and difficulties of the distance learning system.
Hontiveros likewise actively supported the call for an academic health break, emphasizing the need to ensure that both teachers and students are physically and mentally ready to deal with the disruption caused by the pandemic.