Pacquiao knocks out ‘Yosi Kadiri’ in new DOF-DOH ad vs smoking
MANILA, Philippines — As the departments of Finance (DOF) and Health (DOH) waged war against smoking, they took in as an ally no less than the “Pambansang Kamao”—Senator Manny Pacquiao, who “knocked out” the revived 1990s mascot “Yosi Kadiri” in an ad campaign to raise cigarette excise taxes.
But in the tobacco industry, the government has another opponent – fake cigarettes and counterfeit internal revenue stamps allowing unscrupulous traders to evade tax payments, such that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) also stepped up its game and filed charges against a Tacloban City-based businessman on Thursday.
In a statement, BIR said it filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) a criminal complaint against Paul Cartel Radam for P212.6 million in unpaid excise taxes after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Eastern Visayas found a warehouse he owned containing both counterfeit cigarettes as well as packs with fake stamps affixed to them.
“After serving the mission order, as witnessed by NBI operatives, intellectual property and information provider Manila Associate Inc. and barangay officials, it was discovered that various master cases of cigarette brands were inside the warehouse. Upon inspection and systematic verification of 19 randomly selected master cases, using a Taggant reader (a BIR-registered equipment used to test the authenticity of the excise stamps affixed on cigarette packs), it was discovered that all selected cigarette packs bear fake stamps and carry the same serial number,” BIR said.
“A total of 1,215 master cases containing various cigarettes with fake stamps were marked and seized from the respondent. Consequently, 100 percent of the seized merchandise were then tested and verified in the presence of the NBI, barangay officials and Radam, who refused to participate in the said testing,” it added.
“Radam’s unlawful possession of the 1,215 master cases of various packs of cigarettes attached with fake internal revenue stamps is illegal and a violation of the Tax Code,” according to BIR.
In Manila on Wednesday night, DOF launched on its social media accounts a new 29-second video showing Pacquiao slugging it out with Yosi Kadiri in a boxing ring.
“Hindi pa tapos ang laban,” says Pacquiao in his tip-top boxing form, before unleashing three punches hitting Yosi Kadiri – one each to avenge the youth afflicted with a smoking vice, the sick who suffer from diseases caused by smoking, and families who lost their loved ones to smoking-related deaths.
After knocking out Yosi Kadiri, Pacquiao says the Filipino youth can be protected from smoking by raising the excise tax slapped on cigarettes to at least P60 per pack.
Under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, the unitary cigarette excise tax already rose to P35 per pack since July last year.
The House of Representatives also last year approved on third and final reading higher excise taxes on tobacco products, but only to P37.50 per pack starting July this year, before further increasing to P40 in July 2020, P42.50 in July 2021, P45 in July 2022, and by 4 percent annually starting July 2023.
In the Senate, there were three pending bills aimed at jacking up the excise tax on cigarettes to between P60 and P90 a pack, one of which was sponsored by Pacquiao himself.
“With only three working weeks left for the 17th Congress, the ad launch is part of a multi-stakeholder push to increase tobacco excise taxes to at least P60 per pack to safeguard public health and sustain funding for the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law,” DOF said in a statement Thursday.
“Considered as one of the most successful health campaigns in the ‘90s, Yosi Kadiri was first launched by the DOH under the late former Health secretary and senator Juan Flavier. The iconic Yosi Kadiri mascot was introduced to depict the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking on the health of both smokers and non-smokers,” it explained.
“Apart from curbing smoking prevalence among Filipinos, especially the youth, the further increase in tobacco excise taxes aims to help sustainably fund the expanded UHC Law,” according to DOF.
“The UHC Law aims for 100-percent health service coverage for all Filipinos, which is estimated to cost P257 billion in its first year of implementation alone, in keeping with President Duterte’s commitment to attack poverty and improve living standards,” it also said.
Besides higher cigarette excise taxes, DOF and DOH were also pushing to raise the rates slapped on alcohol products under its proposed tax reform package “2 plus.”
“Raising excise taxes on ‘sin’ products is still the most effective policy tool to affect alcohol and tobacco prices to discourage consumption and prevent especially the youth and the poor from smoking and binge drinking,” DOF said.
But DOF lamented that excise tax rate adjustments approved by the Lower House were “much lower” than their joint proposal with DOH.
“The total difference between the House-approved version and the DOF-DOH proposal is P244 billion if computations are done up to 2022. Such a funding gap might undermine the effective implementation of the UHC,” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said.
“The DOF-DOH proposal is ideal because it would prompt the youth, the poor and other price-sensitive cigarette users to stop smoking. Price-sensitive consumers are those who are likely to be discouraged by higher prices from buying certain products,” Chua explained.
According to Chua, “simulations developed jointly by the DOF, DOH, and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that the DOF-DOH proposal on a P60-per-pack increase in the tobacco excise tax will bring down cigarette consumption by 16.8 percent and enable 3.2 million adults to quit smoking.”
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