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Poe Team's pro-poor agenda: 'Kidapawan violence won't happen in my term'

Sen. Grace Poe and the Senatorial candidate Manila Vice Mayor Isko Domagoso Moreno listen to Mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada endorse candidacy for the presidency in a rally at Baseco compound, Manila. Photographed by Ernie Reyes,
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Senator Grace Poe on Thursday vowed to kill hunger, not the poor and hungry, as what happened during a violent dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato who were begging for rice assistance due to massive drought that has affected their palay crop in the province.

Campaigning in the poor areas in Manila, Poe vowed to eliminate the root causes of criminality and corruption by fighting hunger and putting a stop to job contractualization by opening up more than a million jobs every year if she becomes president.

To the folk at the slums of Baseco Compound, Poe said: "Ilang taon, ilang dekada na rin kayong naghahanap ng tunay na pagbabago – pagbabago na magbibigay sa inyo ng mas maayos na buhay para sa inyong pamilya (For decades on end you have been searching for real change that will improve the quality of life for your families)," Poe told the cheering crowd.

"Mga kababayan, ang pinakaproblema natin ay kahirapan, hindi ba? Ang kahirapan ang puno't dulo ng problema kaya kumakapit tayo sa patalim, hindi ba? Mga kababayan, hindi po ang mahirap ang dapat ating patayin kundi ang kahirapan (Poverty is the root of our problems. It's not the poor and the hungry who should be shot or killed, but poverty)," she said, alluding to the protesting farmers who were violently dispersed in Kidapawan after protesting the lack of government response to their appeals for assistance.

Three protesters died in the clash with police in their attempt to claim rice subsidy and other agricultural support from the provincial government in the aftermath of the El Niño dry spell.

Poe said this would never have happened if the government was sensitive to the needs of the people.

"Hindi po karahasan ang solusyon, ang solusyon po ay katarungan (Violence is not the solution. Justice is)," she said. "Kaya kailangan 'yung mga programang diretso sa tiyan ninyo, diretso sa bulsa ninyo ang tututukan ng susunod na pangulo, at 'yan ay ipinapangako ko sa inyo (What's needed are programs that will feed your stomachs and your pockets. That's what I promise you)."

Running under the slogan of "Gobyernong may Puso," Poe said she would put an end to "endo," a colloquial term pertaining to the phrase "end of contract" that signals the end of a person's temporary contractual tenure, or the rampant contractualization policy in the labor sector.

For his part, Poe's running mate, independent vice-presidential contender Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, said "Gobyernong may Puso" will shave income tax rates to boost the take-home pay of millions of Filipino salaried workers, who are, he said, "among the most heavily taxed people in Asia."

Escudero said that lowering the country's personal income tax rate, which, "at 32 percent is one of the highest in the continent, will be the on top of the legislative agenda."

He said that, if the government cannot raise the salaries of private sector employees, it might as well ease their tax burden to boost their take-home pay and help them keep up with the rising cost of living.

Since 1997, Escudero explained, when the Tax Reform Act was passed, tax brackets in the Philippines have not changed. However, salaries have been adjusted to inflation, in effect pushing more wage and salary workers into higher brackets, and compelling them to pay higher taxes.

According to the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines, the 32% individual tax rate in the country for income over P500,000 is the second highest in Southeast Asia and the seventh highest in the entire continent.

Japan, which has a top marginal tax rate of 50%, has the highest in Asia.