A lawmaker said allegations of illicit trade in the tobacco industry like Mighty Corp, other cigarette makers are mere hype and propaganda raised by some disgruntled industry players and should not be a concern of Congress or other government agency.
“All the data thus far on the alleged illicit trade in the tobacco industry are those culled from studies and surveys commissioned by a private company that holds a grudge against a competitor. This can hardly be considered a basis for any kind of probe or review,” Valenzuela 2nd District Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo said.
“Corporate battles shouldn’t be a national concern unless laws are being broken. But in the case of the tobacco industry, we haven’t seen any official document or data to support the allegations of illicit trade,” he said.
The lawmaker cautioned against falling prey to “corporate propaganda” after a foreign manufacturer called for third-party monitoring of the production facilities of tobacco companies in the country.
“We shouldn’t even be entertaining these things. We cannot and should not give credence to such proposals. They are self-serving and manipulative, and the people pushing it must think we Filipinos are stupid,” Gunigundo said.
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares had rejected the proposal outright, saying there was no need for it.
Henares added that the proposal violates the country’s National Internal Revenue Code, stating that only the commissioner and the officers who can be involved in excise tax functions and doing functions of surveillance (NIRC Section 270 in relation to Section 278).
Gunigundo said the real issue is how to preserve the gains of the sin-tax reform law which Congress passed in 2012.
During the first year of implementation, the government’s total collection of P61.62 billion came from tobacco products alone which exceeded the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s original target of P51.65 billion by 20.94 percent.
BIR records also showed a promising trend in the first quarter of the year as the government’s excise tax collection from tobacco products have already exceeded by 4.5 percent or P11.34 billion the target of P10.85 billion.
On the other hand, the law has also seen success as a health measure as a national survey by the Department of Health and Social Weather Stations reported that smoking prevalence, especially among the youth and poor have each had significant drops.
“Republic Act 10351, which reformed the country’s excise tax system, has been a huge success. It has been lauded by international agencies like the World Health Organization. We should not allow vested interests to push their own selfish agenda,” Gunigundo said.