Press Release – Action for Economic Reforms – 13 October 2012

Civil society called on Sen. Ralph Recto to make good on his statement that he is willing to resign from the Senate Ways and Means Committee after he came under fire from sin tax reform advocates for his version of the sin tax bill.

“Sen. Recto should just leave the committee, no ifs and buts,” said Filomeno Sta. Ana of the Action for Economic Reform (AER).

Sta. Ana said that Recto has failed to deliver a pro-people and pro-public health sin tax bill. “It is obvious to us that Recto version of the sin tax bill favors tobacco companies. It does not take into consideration the public health. He has betrayed the public trust with his watered-down bill.”

Sta. Ana also called on other senators who want a better version of the sin tax bill to step up and take Recto’s position as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Surely, there are other senators who can step in and take over the work of the committee for the sake of coming up with a better sin tax bill.”

He also pointed out that Recto’s resignation from his chairmanship would be appropriate in light of recent events. In her Saturday column, esteemed economist Winnie Monsod said she received a text message that said Recto met with representatives of the tobacco industry before he released his committee report. In September, business columnist Conrado Banal also wrote about the meeting between Recto and tobacco industry.

Monsod’s column read, “Last month—Sept. 6 at 7:01 p.m., to be precise—I received the following text message: ‘Recto called a secret meeting today with the tobacco companies. He’s rallying them to support the Philip Morris reco (recommendation-SCM) of 3-tiers or something close. And they were sworn to secrecy.’”

Sta. Ana stressed, “What is disgusting is not the meeting itself, but the reports that those in the meeting were ‘sworn to secrecy.’”

On Saturday, Recto was quoted in newspapers saying he was “willing to give up” the committee anytime “if there are any takers.”

Earlier, the Palace had expressed its displeasure over Recto’s version of the sin tax bill. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the P15 billion that would have been raised by Recto’s bill was not enough to fund the administration’s programs. Health Secretary Enrique Ona said he was disappointed by Recto’s bill. Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares said she felt betrayed by Recto’s version of the bill.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago also criticized Recto’s bill, saying it was an “abject surrender to the very rich and very powerful tobacco and alcohol lobby.” She also called on students and netizens to rise up against the bill. Sens. Pia Cayetano and Franklin Drilon also said they would vigorously push for amendments to the bill.