MANILA (AFP) – Furious Philippine doctors Wednesday demanded the government withdraw newspaper advertisements which they claimed portrayed them as tax cheats, days after Manila launched its latest campaign against tax-dodging in the private sector.
The government ads, which ran in newspapers on Sunday, showed a female teacher lecturing in front of her class with a woman in a medical suit holding a doctor’s clipboard sitting on her shoulders.
“When you don’t pay your taxes, you’re a burden to those who do,” read the accompanying caption below sets of figures that showed less than one percent of a doctor’s income went on taxes while the lower-paid teacher contributed 26 percent of her earnings.
“The Bureau of Internal Revenue should withdraw the negative ads. They create a very bad impression of doctors in the eyes of the public and are defamatory,” Philippine Medical Association president Leo Olarte told AFP.
He said many members were angry and some were demanding the association sue the internal revenue commissioner Kim Henares for “moral damages”, adding that he was however trying to dissuade them from such a move.
The Philippine government has consistently accused the country’s 1.7 million self-employed professionals, including highly paid lawyers and doctors in private practice, of widespread tax evasion.
Henares’ “name-and-shame” campaign has in recent years also extended to high-profile celebrities, including movie and television personalities and professional athletes.
Olarte rejected the tax agency’s allegations against doctors, saying they were based on incorrect assumptions.
He said that while the medical association has 130,000 registered members, only around 35,000 were currently in practice with the others having retired, left the Philippines to work abroad, changed professions or died.
He also disputed allegations that doctors evaded taxes by failing to issue official receipts to patients for their services.
“Maybe one percent cannot issue receipts, but that’s because their patients are so poor they pay with rice, meat or vegetables,” he added.
President Benigno Aquino backed Henares and her ad campaign on Wednesday.
“The shame campaign, while it looks at the professions that seem to be paying less (taxes), does not shame the profession itself,” Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a news conference.
“Those who are paying the proper taxes should not feel ashamed,” he said.