Recto quits as ways and means chair

Posted at 10/15/2012 5:20 PM | Updated as of 10/16/2012 8:26 AM

Withdraws sin tax committee report

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Ralph G. Recto on Monday resigned as chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, only days after coming under fire for approving a "watered-down" version of the sin tax reform bill. He also announced he is withdrawing the controversial committee report on the sin tax bill. 

In a privilege speech at the Senate, Recto said he has become the "national punching bag of the week."

"If my resignation is what is required to expedite the passage of this very important bill, then so be it... My resignation will also cure a perceived anomaly by political partisans who treat my criticism of an administration measure as a betrayal of my duties as a Liberal Party senator," he said. 

"But make no mistake about it, there is no quarrel as to the urgent need to legislate the intentions of this bill.  There is only a divergence of views on how to achieve it."

The Senate has yet to accept Recto's resignation from the ways and means committee. A caucus is scheduled tomorrow to discuss the matter.

In his speech, Recto hit back at his critics, especially the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Department of Health, who heavily criticized the Senate committee report on the sin tax bill.

While he did not mind criticisms hurled against him, Recto said he was most affected by the "unfounded criticisms of my friends in the executive."

"If you wake up Sunday morning to the news that the executive’s phantom legislative point man has accused any senator who does not toe the Finance department proposal as having been bribed by alcohol and tobacco industries, then you know that the trust is gone," he said.

"Kung isang araw din maririnig mong binabatikos ka sa radyo ng isang mataas na revenue official gamit ang datos na hindi makatotohanan, ay magtatampo ka rin talaga," he added, apparently referring to Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares.

Recto also acknowledged he was caught in a sticky situation, where he will be criticized by people whatever version of the sin tax bill would be passed.

"Kung sobra sa buwis, magagalit ang barangay Ginebra at republika ng serbesa... Kung makakaltasan ang rates, babaha ang kantyaw na winater down ko," he said.

Recto also defended the committee report, which was drastically different from the proposal pushed by the government, saying they do not "rubberstamp executive proposals."

After withdrawing the committee report, Recto proposed ways for the Senate to move forward without delaying the passage of the sin tax measure.

He said the new ways and means committee chairman can use the existing committee records, data and transcript to make a new committee report.

Another option is to adopt the House version as a discussion document, or to ask the Department of Finance to send its own bill.