Enrile defends embattled RectoBy Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile defended senator Ralph Recto Friday amid criticisms over his proposed “watered-down” sin tax reform bill that several government agencies said was a “betrayal.”
“We are independent minds elected by the people to do a job objectively for their interest and not the interest of anyone,” Enrile told reporters Friday.
He said that it was the Senate that would decide on the fate of the sin tax reform bill. Recto’s committee report on the sin tax bill will be respected and it will still be deliberated on by members of the upper chamber, Enrile said.
Recto, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, has recommended a version of the sin tax bill that aims to collect P15 billion in additional revenues.
But the Department of Health, Department of Finance, and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) have set a target of P60 billion, leading BIR commissioner Kim Henares to state that employees of the BIR felt “betrayed” because all their hardwork in assisting Recto had gone to waste.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has called for protests against the bill as she accused Recto of surrendering “to the very rich and very powerful tobacco and alcohol lobby.”
“Under the Santiago bill, government will raise P60 billion for the first year. By contrast, the Recto bill will earn only P15 billion,” Santiago said.
Recto said in a separate interview Friday that it was difficult to strike a balance between the farmers, workers, consumers, companies, health advocates, and revenue officials. He said he aimed to get an “equilibrium” between all of them.
Enrile said: “Ultimately it will be the Senate that will decide that. Dont other people have the right to propose alternative solutions to the problems of the country?”
Recto also said that he was willing to give the committee chairmanship to anyone who would take it. “Im willing to give it up anytime, if there is anyone willing to take it I will give it,” he said.
“The only reason I am not resigning is because I dont want to delay the process,” Recto said.