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Do we still need Spanish-era cedulas? BIR chief says no

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. — BM, GMA News