Without waiting for an amendment to the economic provisions of the Constitution either by a Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention, the House of Representatives has approved on third reading House Bill No. 5828 which ostensibly provides for a statutory definition of a public utility but which is actually a subterfuge to allow foreigners to own public utility enterprises without complying with the citizenship requirement imposed by the Constitution.
I vote against House Bill 4144 (“An Act Amending Section 145 [C] of the National Revenue Code of 1997, as Amended”) for the following overriding reasons:
The one-tier taxation for all kinds and brands of cigarettes at P30/pack starting in January 2017 is precipitately jettisoned in favor of retaining a two-tier regime of P36 for premium cigarettes and P32 for value or lower-priced cigarettes. The efficacy of the unitary system scheduled in 2017 has not even been tested on the ground. Long and even acrimonious debates had preceded the enactment of Republic Act No. 10351 (Sin Tax Reform Act) which eventually installed starting 2017 the one-tier system of taxation. All of these debates and inputs will be put to naught with the enactment of House Bill 4144.
All of the government agencies invited during the only two public hearings from the Department of Finance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue to the Department of Health were opposed to House Bill No. 4144. Only the National Tobacco Administration was in favor of the measure.
More than a revenue measure, the Sin Tax Reform Act was hailed as a health measure. Any amendment to this Act must prioritize health concerns. However, House Bill No. 4144 is anti-health because with a two-tier taxation, majority of cigarette smokers will be encouraged to shift downward to lower-priced brands, instead of quitting smoking because they could not afford or patronize the higher priced premium cigarettes. Consequently, HB 4144 defeats the purpose of reducing the number of smokers as smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world.
The two-tier system is more difficult to administer than the unitary system, and it is more conducive to tax evasion and other tax collection irregularities.
The unitary system is the taxation of choice of so many countries, including Australia, Japan, Ireland and Thailand, and it is considered a best practice globally.
All of the principal players in the cigarette manufacturing industry, except Mighty Corporation, were against House Bill 4144.
House Bill No. 4144 is flawed as a grossly discriminatory tax measure because it principally, if not solely, favors Mighty Corporation, which produces low-grade and low-priced cigarettes.
RE: H.B. NO. 3408 (2O17 GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL)
I seek recognition not to oppose the motion to approve on third reading House Bill No. 3408 or the 2017 General Appropriations Bill. I rise to manifest my reservations on the validity of approving on third reading the 2017 GAB based on the President’s message for its immediate enactment pursuant to Section 26 (2) of Article VI of the Constitution:
“No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form had been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity and emergency.”
I have grave reservations on the compliance of the President’s certification on the immediate enactment of the 2017 GAB pursuant to Section 26 (2) of Article VI for the following reasons:
1. Both the letter dated 11 October 2016 of President Duterte and the letter also dated 11 October 2016 of Executive Secretary Medialdea, addressed to Speaker Alvarez, did not mention any public calamity or emergency necessitating the immediate enactment of HB No. 3408 or the GAB. Absent such reference to a public calamity or emergency, the condition provided for by the Constitution is not complied with.
2. What the letter of President Duterte mentioned justifying the immediate enactment of the 2017 GAB are: (a) “in order to address the need to maintain continuous government operations following the end of the current fiscal year”; (2) “to expedite funding of various programs, projects and activities for FY 2017”; and (c) “to ensure budgetary preparedness that will enable the government to effectively perform its constitutional mandate”.
The aforesaid reasons are not compliant with the condition imposed by the Constitution on the “need to meet a public calamity or emergency”.
Moreover, the reasons are contingent on the end of fiscal year 2016 and the start of fiscal year 2017, which are more than two months from now.
3. While the distribution of copies of the printed bill in its final form is dispensed with, when there is a valid certification of urgency, there must at least be a showing that the third reading copy is complete with the incorporation of the amendments to the GAB by the “small committee”. No such showing has been made so far on the final version for third reading.
For all the foregoing reasons, I have grave reservations on approving on third reading House Bill No. 3408 or the 2017 General Appropriations Bill.