Malacañang on Wednesday expressed surprise at the close Senate vote on the “sin tax” bill, even issuing a warning to reelectionist senators that the electorate will remember how they voted in next May’s elections.
The senators voted 10 to 9 last Tuesday to ratify the bicameral conference committee report on the reformed sin tax bill that is projected to generate some P248.49 billion over the next five years. President Aquino is expected to sign the measure next week.
“It was unusual and therefore a surprise. Normally, the ratification of a bicameral conference committee report is just a formality,” said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
But presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda raised the possibility that the way the senators voted could become a factor in the elections.
“It’s up to the voters. I’m sure the people, especially the health advocates, will remember those who voted for this important bill,” he said.
How they voted
Sen. Franklin Drilon, Edgardo Angara, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV voted to ratify.
Those who voted against the measure were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, with Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ralph Recto, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Joker Arroyo, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Vicente Sotto III.
Absent during the voting were Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Teofisto Guingona III and Manuel Villar.
Escudero, Cayetano, Legarda, Pimentel, Trillanes and Villar’s wife, Cynthia, are all running for senator under the ruling Liberal Party-led coalition. Escudero and Legarda are also “guest candidates” of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.
Abad, a senior LP leader, declined to comment when asked whether the President may still find it worthwhile to support reelectionist senators who voted against the sin tax measure or were absent during the vote.
“That is not for me to express an opinion on. I will leave that for the President to consider,” he said.
Strategic Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang said the close vote was “a sign of how strong opposition to the sin tax bill was.”
“That also explains why it took so long to pass the measure which had been pending in one form or another for many years,” he said.
Lacierda said Malacañang was simply happy that the bill passed.
“At the end of the day, what’s more important is that it was passed…It was a close call but we’re very happy with the vote,” he said.
The House of Representatives also ratified the bicam report last Tuesday.