Press Release
October 11, 2012


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago called for university students and social media netizens to join the war against the committee version of the sin tax bill, which she calls "the death star bill."

"At present, 25 million Filipino youth who are 18 years old are smokers. If they continue to smoke, half of them will die" she said.

Santiago is the principal author of Senate Bill No. 3249, "An Act restructuring the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products."

"I am gobsmacked - speechless with amazement - at the committee report. It bears no recognizable resemblance to my bill. It is an abject surrender to the very rich and very powerful tobacco and alcohol lobby," she said.

The senator compared her bill with that recommended by the committee report, known as SBN No. 3299, and sponsored by Sen. Ralph Recto, chair of the ways and means committee.

"Under the Santiago bill, government will raise P60 billion for the first year. By contrast, the Recto bill will earn only P15 billion. The foregone revenue could go to universal health care, such as more hospitals, rural health units, and barangay health stations," she said.

"When cigarettes and liquor are cheap, more people will use them. The Philippines already has one of the lowest prices of cigarettes and alcohol in Southeast Asia. That's why for every hour, 10 Filipinos die from tobacco use. Smoking causes 240 deaths every single day," she said.

According to Santiago, an international law expert, under a treaty called the "Framework Convention on Tobacco Control," the tax on tobacco should be 70 percent of the price of the product.

The tobacco treaty aims to reduce the number of smokers from 28 percent to 25 percent by 2014.

Santiago said this is the reason why her bill imposes a tax of P30 per pack of cigarettes by 2015.

"My bill imposes a unitary tax system, as recommended by the World Health Organization. The Recto bill uses a 3-tier tax rate for tobacco and alcohol products, making them cheaper and thereby encouraging their use," she said.

The senator said that the unitary tax system which she used in her bill is more simplified and therefore easier to administer. She contrasted it with the multi-tier system, which she said authorizes tax officials to classify brands according to tiers, a practice which invites corruption and abuses.

Santiago said that while her bill will save 4.15 million smokers at the first year, the Recto bill will save only 2.93 million smokers.

"My bill will raise the prices of cigarettes and alcohol, but it will save the lives of 240 Filipinos everyday. Cigarette smoke contains 60 chemicals which cause cancer," Santiago said.

To the argument that cigarettes and alcohol are the entertainment of the poor, Santiago retorted that the purpose of entertainment is relaxation and not death.

Santiago, member of the ways and means committee, said that she signed the committee report with the annotation: "Only for the purpose of getting the bill out to the plenary session," in order that debates on the bill can start on the floor of the Senate.

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