Press Release
November 14, 2012


In his interpellation, Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr.,while supporting the goal behind the sin tax reform bill, questioned the apparent vagueness of certain terms used in the legislative proposal. The lawmaker gave particular importance on which government programs would benefit from the said tax measure.

Citing transparency and clarity, the senator said government programs, particularly in public healthcare, that would be funded from the sin tax reform bill should be clearly specified. According to him, this will serve as a sort of a safeguard against sudden diversion or realignment of funds. "It would be better if there is a definite list of government health care programs that will be covered by the revenue collected from this proposed tax measure. We just want to make sure that the noble intention of the bill will be achieved once it is passed into law. We pass it for its purpose, not for anything else," he said.

The lawmaker pointed out that there is a provision in the substitute sin tax bill regarding the use of the incremental revenue to fund the government's universal healthcare program which must be clearly defined. During his interpellation, he inquired if reproductive health is included in the provision.

"Kasama po ba ang reproductive health sa universal health care katulad ng pagbili ng contraceptives. Mr. President?" he asked.

"Wala po dito sa listahan at ito ay, for the record, that is a good question. As we have earlier put on record, the financing gap is P23.4 billion..." answered Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Franklin Drilon, principal author and sponsor of the substitute sin tax reform bill.

Revilla commended the committee for considering his apprehension on the imprecise provision. It could be recalled that also during the interpellation, Drilon acknowledged Revilla's inquiries and vowed to review the "general" provision for the possible enumeration of all government programs that will be financed through the sin tax reform bill. "But... now that the good Senator (Revilla) has brought this up[.], We will study the possibility of enumerating all of these in the bill itself so that there is authority of Congress in the spending of this incremental revenue..." Drilon said.

Prior to this, the committee chairman also verified during Revilla's interpellation that the utilization of universal healthcare funds from sin tax revenue will not be solely determined by the head of the Department of Health. Revilla clarified that he has nothing against using sin tax collections for healthcare. "Ang concerns ko lamang po ay ang maayos na utilization of funds and implementation of programs," he explained.

In stressing his point, Revilla cited for comparison the Motor Vehicles Users' Charge (MVUC). "May road board iyan, hindi ba? Bago makapag-allocate ng pondo kailangan ng approval ng board. Sa pagkakabasa ko dito (sin tax bill), DOH ang magde-determine ng utilization ng pondo ng universal health care..." he said.

In his press statement, the senator said he does not want blur provisions in the sin tax reform bill to avoid arguments or misinterpretations in the future. "We are looking forward to the thorough listing of government programs that will benefit from this tax measure and also clear provision that the use of funds will be decided by more than one person. This is one way of promoting transparency and accountability in government. We are affirming to the government's right path advocacy. We want to be sure that the sin tax bill goes toward the right direction" Revilla added.

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