Support sin tax to beat suspicions of being on the take, says Palace execBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – By not supporting the popular sin tax reform measure, lawmakers will arouse suspicion they’re on the take from tobacco and liquor companies, an aide to President Benigno Aquino III said Saturday.
Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, wondered why some lawmakers would oppose the administration measure that was very popular with the public because it would tax smoking and drinking, and allot revenues for health services.
“Any lawmaker will support it. Why are they not supporting it?” Mamba said in a telephone interview. “Anyone who would not support this very popular measure is subject to suspicion that he has received lobby money or that he was bribed by the lobby groups of big multinationals.”
Mamba said “big lobby money” was the main reason past administrations did not approve this measure for the past 15 years. ‘There’s big money in it,” he said.
Some Cabinet members took issue with Senator Ralph Recto after he reported out the Senate version that would lessen the tax rate and therefore trim down the projected income from the tax from P60 billion to P15 billion.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile came to Recto’s defense, and said the executive branch should just let the Senate do its job of crafting a sin tax law.
Despite this, Malacañang has not lost hope its version of the bill would see the light of day.
“Please keep in mind that the debates are still to come and these will be the opportunity to re-emphasize the health and revenue arguments in favor of a more substantial bill,’’ Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, senior political adviser to President Aquino, said in a text message.
Key stakeholders from civil society, professionals and the international community would also have a chance “to weigh in,” Abad said.
“A lot of vigilance and advocacy will be exercised by critical stakeholders that can influence the fate of the committee report,” he added.
The administration priority bill seeks to impose a uniform tax rate on tobacco and alcohol to increase government revenues from the so-called sin products to P60 billion.
Staff from the Department of Finance, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Department of Health would continue to engage the senators in continuing deliberations on the measure, Malacañang said.
“We will continue to work with the legislators and that include the senators and the senator-advocates for the sin tax measure. We provide the data, studies and research that they may need as they discuss the measure in the plenary,” Abigail Valte, one of President Aquino’s spokespersons, said in a radio interview.
Abad said the debates should not be described as a fight between Malacañang and the Senate.
“The Senate debate is an arena where all stakeholders should be allowed and be free to express their views. At the end of the day what should prevail is the rationality and strength of the arguments,” he said.