Press Release – Action for Economic Reforms – 14 October 2012

Sen. Ralph Recto is liable for violating government rules and standards for government officials, sin tax reformers said on Sunday.

Filomeno Sta. Ana of the Action for Economic Reform (AER) was reacting to reports Recto met with officials of the tobacco industry prior to releasing his committee report on the sin tax bill.

In her column on Friday published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, esteemed economist Solita Monsod said she received information Recto had a “secret meeting” with tobacco companies last Sept.6. Representatives of the companies were, according to reports, “sworn to secrecy.”

In his Sept. 19, 2012 column also in the Inquirer, business columnist Conrado Banal also wrote about a “closed-door session” between executives of tobacco companies and Recto.

“Issues discussed in this meeting should be made public. Why were the executives sworn to secrer? The meeting and it’s secrecy is high irregular given that Recto was working on his version on the sin tax bill,” Sta. Ana said. “Recto could be liable for violating rules and regulations on ethics and conduct of officials in relation to the tobacco industry.”

For starters, Sta. Ana pointed to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 2005 in which Recto was a member. The objective of the agreement is to protect the public from harmful effects of tobacco consumption through tobacco control measures.

Article 5 of the agreement exhorts signing parties to protect public health policies related to tobacco control “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”

Sta. Ana also pointed to Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01 between the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Department of Health (DOH). The memorandum prohibits public officials and employees from, among other things, unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry, preferential treatment to the tobacco industry, acceptance of favors from the industry and conflicts of interest with the industry.

Sta. Ana also said the meeting runs counter to the spirit of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Governments Officials and Employees. The law exhorts officials to uphold public interest, professionalism and justness and sincerity among others.

“Sen. Recto must be made to answer why he should not be charged for violating the ethical standards for government officials. The Liberal Party, of which Recto is a member, should also warn him to stay in line with the President’s ‘daang matuwid.’ Otherwise, Recto should just resign from the Committee,” Sta. Ana said.

Sta. Ana had recently called for the resignation of Recto from the Senate after his version of the sin tax bill was seen to favor tobacco companies instead of taking the health of the public into consideration.