By Ellson Quismorio
The House committee on appropriations has approved the budgetary provision of a measure that promotes honesty in the marketplace, particularly with use of a timbangan or weighing devices.
Given the Appropriations panel’s nod was the currently unnumbered substitute bill to House Bill (H.B.) No.2957, which is entitled “An Act for the Establishment of a Timbangan ng Bayan Center in all markets nationwide, amending for the purpose, Chapter II of Republic Act 7394, otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines.”
Committee chairman Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Nograles said the measure seeks to further improve the state’s protection of consumers.
“The Consumer Act has been in effect for almost 26 years now, so some of its provisions need to be attuned to the times,” Nograles said.
H.B. No. 2957 was principally authored by former president and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
During a deliberation on its resulting substitute bill on January 17, the Nograles panel recommended that the measure’s appropriations provision (Section 6) indicates that “the amount necessary to carry out the provisions of Section 1…shall be charged against the internal revenue allotment (IRA) and other funds of the local government unit (LGU) concerned.”
Section 1 of the measure effectively inserts a new provision under Article 62 of Chapter II of RA 7394. The provision calls for the establishment of Timbangan ng Bayan Centers in all markets in the country “where instruments for determining weights and measures shall be open for and accessible to anyone who wants to verify the accuracy of the quantity and measurement of the products they purchased.”
“Once in place, Timbangan ng Bayan Centers will give Filipino homemakers and other individuals the assurance that they will not be duped by shrewd vendors with their undercalibrated weighing scales. It’s also a good way to pinpoint who the cheaters are in the marketplace,” Nograles said.
“We’re putting provincial, city and municipal governments in charge of this undertaking through their IRA,” the panel chairman noted. The IRA is the share that LGUs receive from taxes collected by the national government.
The measure mandates that the safekeeping and maintenance of weighing devices at these centers shall be under the control and supervision of the market supervisor.
The market supervisor will also be tasked to keep a record of every product found to be wanting in quantity or substandard in dimension, as well as the establishment where the goods were bought including the name of the proprietor or its manager.
Nograles said another major feature of the bill is the imposition of heftier fines and penalties in connection with fraudulent practices involving weights and measures.
“Specifically, individuals who fraudulently alter any scale, balance, weight, or measure after it was officially sealed will be slapped with a fine between P50,000 and P1 million, and/or imprisonment between one and five years.
“This amendment makes a lot of sense considering that R.A. 7394 currently prescribes a fine of just P300 and a one-year jail term for such offenses. Vendors will definitely think twice about committing them once the law gets more teeth,” the Davao solon said.
The Consumer Act of the Philippines was signed into law on April 13, 1992.