Recto to colleagues: Write your own committee report

Posted at 10/17/12 3:55 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Senator Ralph Recto on Wednesday insisted that his committee report on the sin tax reform bill be withdrawn, and advised the new leader of the ways and means committee to come up with a new one.

Recto, who recently resigned as chair of the committee, said it would be ironic for other senators to use his committee report when it has been widely criticized for allegedly being a watered down version of the original sin tax bill.

"If my report is so bad, why are you going to use my report?" he said, reacting to other senators' statements that they plan to use Recto's sin tax committee report as a basis for plenary debates.

The acting chair of the ways and means committee, Senator Franklin Drilon, had said he finds no problem in using Recto's version since it would be subjected to amendments anyway. 

Senator Francis Pangilinan agrees, saying it would save the Senate time in deliberating on the measure.

 Recto pointed out, however, that he worked hard for weeks to produce the report, which he says was well-written.

 "I wrote it. Let them write theirs," he said. "It is the product of my own mind."

Members of the committee will meet to discuss whether they will still use Recto's committee report.

Recto said he will "respectfully request" that they craft a new one based on data presented in the committee hearings, and promised that he will sign it.

He suggested that they use Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago's version, where projected sin tax revenues are close to the administration's aim of P60 billion. Santiago has expressed apprehensions over Recto's version, even calling it a "death star bill."

Asked how he would react if his colleagues insist on using his committee report, Recto quipped, "Well, thank you for plagiarizing my report."

Recto resigned as chair of the ways and means committee this week amid criticisms from various groups, including certain officials of the Aquino administration, of his version of the sin tax bill. Along with his resignation, he asked that his committee report be withdrawn.

Even if he has resigned, however, Recto said he will participate in floor debates on the measure as a regular committee member and defend his views.

Recto stressed that his version of the measure, where the government stands to earn P15 billion to P20 billion from excise taxes, is reasonable and will not lead to a massive loss of jobs in the tobacco and alcohol industries.

"I'm not abandoning my position," he told reporters. "My job is to show our colleagues my findings. That's it. And let everyone vote. I will fight for a responsible, fair version."

But he vowed that he will not be an obstacle to other senators who want higher taxes.

Drilon has expressed his intention to introduce amendments to the bill and make the projected revenue closer to P60 billion.

Recto accepts Purisima's apology

Meantime, during a closed-door meeting at the Senate, Recto patched things up with 4 administration officials who criticized his version of the sin tax reform bill

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's caucus, Recto said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima apologized to him. Purisima also said sorry on behalf of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Manuel Mamba, who was quoted in reports as accusing lawmakers of receiving bribes from tobacco companies.

"That is good enough for me," Recto said. "The apology is there. Well accepted. We are all professionals. Hindi naman kailangang magsamaan ng loob."

Recto also said the administration officials proposed a new revenue target from sin taxes: P40 billion instead of the original P60 billion.

Still, Recto expressed doubts if it is achievable.

"I doubt it very much if we can get there," he said.

Recto has been criticized for lowering the projected revenue from sin taxes to only up to P20 billion in his version of the measure.