MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ralph Recto has been bombarded with calls to resign as the chairman of the committee on ways and means over his committee report on the sin tax reform bill.
They say the sin tax should not be just about revenues but also about the health of every Filipino.
"Profit or Pinoy? Sino ba ang ipo-protekta nila? These people think only in numbers, but do not think of social implications. Kulang sa holistic approach. Yes, hard numbers but also concern for society," said Human Rights Commissioner Cecilia "Coco" Quisumbing.
Quisumbing argued that the Philippines can no longer give the excuse that it is a developing country and it cannot give Filipinos the health care they deserve.
Quisumbing’s statements came following the release of Recto's sin tax bill committee report, which envisions only P15 billion in new taxes, way below the P60 billion target.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, meanwhile, reiterated that the sin tax bill is primarily a health bill.
"He sees these mainly on revenues at incidental lang ‘yung health. This is not the first time he looks at these issues very narrowly. Sino ba ang author ng e-VAT? ‘Di ba siya ang tumulak ng e-VAT that has had a very negative impact on our economy over the last few years? Lahat po ng mga mangangalakal, small businesses, people, consumers, continue to suffer from the e-VAT pushed by Senator Recto," said Bello.
But Bello also said he still believes Recto has not fallen into the hands of big tobacco companies.
"He's a person of integrity. Ang problema he looks at it very narrowly. ‘Di namin sinasabi na si Senator Recto is in the hands of these multinationals. Problema lang talaga, makitid ang paningin nya,” he said.
Meanwhile, cancer survivor and New Vois Association Philippine president Emer Rojas also expressed dismay over Recto's report.
"Ang panukala ni Senator Recto ay napakababa, siguradong marami na naman po ang mamatay at magiging biktima,” he said.
Health advocates like Rojas have been arguing that studies have shown that increasing the price of cigarettes will discourage young people from taking the habit of cigarette smoking and, in effect, the government doesn't have to spend billions in treating cigarette-related illnesses, including lung cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, COPD and diabetes.