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Higher Sin Tax: Bigger Revenues, Less Consumption

All told, the total cumulative revenues to be generated from the sin tax reform will amount to more than PHP530 billion pesos in six years (2012-16). For the first year alone, the revenues to be collected will reach PHP 60.63 billion pesos, half of the amount to be contributed by the tobacco taxes.

Furthermore, health objectives will be satisfied. We can expect a reduction of approximately two percentage points in smoking prevalence, and we can generate substantial funds to finance the government’s program for universal health coverage.

The ghost conquistador and the specter of smuggling

Recently, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial titled Taxing vices (27 August 2011) made this conclusion: “So whether it is to raise taxes or curb vices, this is one piece of legislation that merits serious consideration by Congress. And the time to enact it is now during the current session, when our lawmakers are still not too preoccupied with ensuring their reelection.”

A week earlier (19 August 2011), Inquirer columnist Raul Pangalangan explained through his essay the essential features of the sin tax reform, namely the indexation of the specific tax to inflation, the adoption of a simplified unitary tax, and the removal of the discriminatory price freeze classification for certain tobacco products, where tax rates are pegged at 1996 prices. The Inquirer editorial cited above also discussed these attributes. Professor Pangalangan extends his work to tackle the “legal sophistication of the tobacco industry.”

The Pangalangan piece was an effective one, if we go by Mao’s statement that to be attacked by the enemy is a good thing. Someone rejoined, through a letter to the editor, which the Inquirer published.

Bantay FOI! Sulong FOI!

Today, we reaffirm our commitment to fight for our freedom of information. Together, we will work to expand our ranks, raise public awareness, build consensus, actively engage Malacañang and Congress, and intensify our campaign to have the Freedom of Information Act passed within the second regular session of the 15th Congress.

It is plain and simple: the people’s right to know is a constitutionally guaranteed right. It is not a matter subject to negotiation with public officials or lawmakers, or to the discretion of whichever party is in power.

Coalition letter to PNoy on the FOI

Three times we have written and three times, too, we have failed to receive substantial positive feedback from you or your deputies regarding our appeal.

Please rest assured, Mr, President, that we continue to keep faith in your appreciation of the value of an FOI Act in promoting good governance, transparency, accountability, and responsive delivery of public services. These are precisely the bedrock principles – and promises – on which you have built your “Social Contract with the Filipino People,” and for which you have won the adulation, respect and vote of our people. We also understand full well that your administration needs and deserves adequate time to study the details of the bill and assess it against a number of concerns that you and some of your deputies have publicly raised.

On Merci’s Resignation: The Crucial Next Steps for the Nation

After a tenacious and defiant stand against the House impeachment proceedings, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez surprised many when she took the path of least resistance and resigned her post.

One view about her decision is that by doing so, she pre-empted not just her own public trial, but also that of former President Gloria Arroyo. After all, the acts for which Ombudsman Gutierrez was impeached by Congress are intimately connected with acts relating to the former presidency. The betrayal of public trust was a conspiracy; the conspirators must have assessed it to be too damaging for them to go to a public trial, even if no punishment is involved in impeachment.

FOI advocates to Palace: Delays could kill FOI bill

We in the Right to Know, Right Now! (RTKRN) Coalition recognize Malacañang’s prerogative to closely examine the proposed Freedom of Information Bill that has been the focus of our 15-year advocacy work in four Philippine Congresses in succession. Indeed, while the bill covers all branches and levels of government, the implementation of an FOI law will rest mainly on the executive as the biggest generator and custodian of information. We envision an FOI law that will be a living document and effective norm of transparency in government, and in achieving this, no less than clear and solid support from the Executive is a critical factor. Toward this end, we have time and again expressed our readiness for dialogue to address whatever concerns some officials in the Executive branch reportedly continue to harbor about the FOI bill.

We fear, however, that Malacañang’s enunciated approach of drafting its own FOI bill could simply throw a monkey wrench into its long-overdue legislation. For one, it sends a signal to the Congress to slow down on the legislative process because Malacañang has yet to start crafting its version. For another, Malacañang’s lack of decisive support for FOI has been interpreted by many sectors as clear resistance, in fact, to the measure. This can only embolden opponents of the bill in Congress. Additionally, Malacañang’s approach could result in a bill that may have far less to offer in terms of substance and structure, or even as confused as the initial yield of memorandum circulars from the Palace.