During the Spanish era, one of the highlights of the Philippine revolution was when Andres Bonifacio and his fellow Katipuneros tore their Cedulas to signal the start of the Filipinos’ revolt against Spanish rule. That moment in history is called “The Cry of Pugad Lawin” (also known as “The Cry of Balintawak” where in August 1896, members of the secret society of Filipino revolucionarios Katipunan tore their community tax certificates (cedulas personales) while shouting, “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas” in their defiance of their allegiance to Spain.
More than 100 years later and on a God-forsaken Friday morning, I ponder this same thought as I line up in one of the available windows of the city hall to get my community tax certificate or cedula. The Hub and I needed to sign some contracts and one of the requirements is a CTC number. So, five years after I got married, I found myself again needing one.
So what is the Cedula or the community tax certificate? To me, it’s the random jumble of numbers which you need to acknowledge a document prior to sending it to the notary public. But because I was curious, I looked it up and found out that here in our country, Cedulas are considered primary forms of identification, in the same vein as the passport or your driver’s license. CTCs are issued to individuals at the age of majority and who has paid their community tax. During our usual office round table during lunch, I asked what’s the difference between the freaking tax deducted from my salary and the community tax? The cool boss said that our community tax pays for the utilities used by our town or city, like garbage collection, payment of the city security group, fixing of local signs and light fixtures. In my head, I can’t seem to process that I am paying this government twice in order for it to function.
But are Cedulas still relevant in these modern times? The Bureau of International Revenue seemed to think otherwise:
“In the modern digital age of electronic identification cards, does the Philippines still need that relic of the Spanish era, the community tax certificate known as the cedula?
For Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, the answer is a firm no.
“Sa totoo lang, if there’s going to be any policy reform ay siguro ang unang reporma ay alisin ang hindi na kailangan,” Henares told reporters in Manila during the BIR’s weekly filing of tax evasion cases at the Department of Justice.
“Ang cedula ay isang bagay na hindi na kailangan ngayon. Spanish time pa ‘yan eh. Ngayon nga pag nagno-notarize ka hindi na pinapansin ang cedula kasi alam ng lahat ng tao kahit saan pwede kumuha ng cedula,” she said.
Also called a residence certificate, a cedula is a legal identity document issued by local government units to residents upon payment of community tax (usually P5 for an individual wage earner).
Henares also lamented that her agency, which is mandated to manufacture the cedulas, spends money to print them out and distribute them to the LGUs, but never sees the earnings derived from them.
“Iyong kinita ng local government sa cedula hindi pumupunta ni isang kusing sa BIR [or] sa national government,” she said.
“Hindi ko alam kung saan napupunta sa local government, pero magkano ba ang nakukuha nila?” Henares added.
She could not immediately provide the exact figure of how much could be saved if cedulas were phased out, but said it would be “in the millions.” Henares said the BIR is required to provide cedulas to the country’s more than 1,000 cities and municipalities.
“I think that is an area that is ripe for reform. You remove that,” Henares said.
Introduced in the 19th century during Spanish colonial rule, cedulas replaced the tribute system and were issued to indios after payment of residence tax. People were required to bring their cedulas at all times or risk being declared “indocumentado.”
The certificates took their place in Philippine history in August 1896, when revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio led his men in tearing up their cedulas, an act of defiance against Spanish rule.
I currently a resident of the Philippines’ so-called richest city, with our current mayor a spawn of a political dynasty with ambitions for the highest office in the land. Considering the number of employed people in these city and the number of people who was in line that day, waiting for their own cedulas, I want to know where these so-called “taxes” are going. The dynasty said that our city is a rich city, and if it is so — then do we need to pay for a piece of paper with no significant use other than to acknowledge a legal and binding document? Can’t our passport numbers or Unified ID Numbers do that for us?
In this day and age where the road to progress is getting wired and wired further and everything online, don’t you think it’s about time that these cedulas get torn up for good?