BIR limits contact with employees of cigarette firms

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 06 2014 07:50 AM | Updated as of Aug 06 2014 03:51 PM

MANILA - The Bureau of Internal Revenue has issued new guidelines limiting interaction between its officials and cigarette manufacturers and defining certain offenses as additional grounds for administrative disciplinary action amid sneaky tactics employed by the tobacco industry to resist government regulation.

The new guidelines contained in Revenue Memorandum Order 28-2014, effectively amended the Revised Code of Conduct for BIR officials and employees in a move aimed at avoiding a potential conflict of interest or benefit to a business.

A conflict of interest occurs when an employee’s personal activities or relationships interfere with his or her public or fiduciary obligations.

Non-compliance shall constitute a grave offense without prejudice to the filing of criminal as well as civil actions under existing laws, rules and regulations, Internal Revenue commissioner Kim Henares said.

“Revenue officials and employees shall limit interactions with the tobacco industry to those strictly necessary...All non-mediated exchanges (in person, phone or email) between officials, and representatives of the agency should be avoided,” Henares said.

Henares said any meeting should be held at the premises of the department, agency or local government with the presence of a lawyer who shall act as moderator.

“A voice recording of the meeting may be made to assist the staff in preparing the transcript of the meting,” the BIR chief said.

Henares said it must be made clear that such interaction or meeting does not imply partnership, dialogue or collaboration.

“Any photograph taken of this meeting must be for documentation purposes only and not for the public relations activities of the tobacco industry,” she said.

All revenue officials and employees are prohibited from receiving any contribution from the tobacco industry for themselves, their families, relatives, friends or any other persons or organizations. These include payments, gifts and services (monetary or in-kind), research funding, financial aid, policy drafts and legal advice.

“Revenue officials and employees which have a role in setting and implementing public health policies with respect to tobacco control, shall inform their respective chiefs of office about any intention to engage in an occupational activity within the tobacco industry whether gainful or not, within a specified period of time after leaving service,” Henares said.