Doctors to campaign against senators seeking reelection should tobacco tax bill not passed

Published January 18, 2019, 5:51 PM

by Dhel Nazario, Jeffrey G. Damicog, and Rey G. Panaligan

By Betheena Unite

Thirty major medical societies in the Philippines warned that they will lobby against legislators, who are seeking reelection, if they try to “oppose or delay” the passage of the proposed higher tobacco tax law.

“Ipinaglalaban natin (We will fight for it). Approved it now before it’s too late, before the election campaigns. And we are promising to fight for the candidates who support the bill and we also promise to fight just as strongly the legislators who oppose or delay the bill,” Dr. Antonio Dans of the National Academy of Science and Technology Academician expressed Friday when presidents of various medical groups gathered in Quezon City to urge senators to pass a proposed tobacco tax of at least P60 per pack before the campaign period to fund the implementation of the Universal Health Care.

“We are watching you. We have to hold you accountable for what you say and also for what you don’t say. So, we are going to fight as a profession to make this an election issue,” Dans warned.

Young men from the group Responsible Vapers show off their vapes at the DOH in Manila where talks on the rules and regulations regarding the use of electronic cigarettes took place. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)
Young men from the group Responsible Vapers show off their vapes at the DOH in Manila where talks on the rules and regulations regarding the use of electronic cigarettes took place. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Doctor Anthony Leachon of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), said about five million to six million votes will be taken away from senators, who are seeking reelection, if they fail to support the bill.

“Ang PCP, meron kaming convention before the election and we will make a slate and we will choose the senators (we will support). Think of the magnitude or the impact when the health professions and their relatives would not vote for them. Binibilang ko, 5 milion to 6 million (votes will be taken away from them),” Leachon said.

Leachon also pointed out that the senators, especially Senate President Tito Sotto, Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, and Chairperson of the Committee on Ways and Means Sonny Angara, can shepherd the passage of the bill.

“Puwede nilang pagpuyatan ‘yan, puwedeng overtime yan, 24 hours, 48 hours, because it is the mother of advocacies and this is the one important for funding of Universal Health Care,” he said.

“Kasi kung maba-block nila ito, hindi nila ipapasa ‘to (If this will be blocked), the tobacco tax bill is killed or dead for the year and you have to refile it at the lower house again. And that would mean also a delay in the implementation of the Universal Health Care,” he added.

According to Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino, if the proposed bill won’t be passed, there will be a financial gap of P40.5 billion to complete the P257.5 billion budget to finance the implementation of the Universal Health Care in 2019.

“’Yung financial gap na P40.5 billion manggagaling sa additional sin tax. That means, we have a fund for the partial implementation although we would like to be able to do full implementation,” Lambino said.

Leachon also said that should the bill is not passed, they will have to spread out the implementation in the next three to five years.

“The increase will provide crucial funding for the Universal Health Care Act that will benefit the current and future generations of all Filipinos from the womb to tomb. It will save at least 1 million Filipinos from the deadly habit of smoking until year 2022,” the medical groups led by PCP said in their manifesto.

“In this coming election, we and our constituents commit to fully support legislators who champion this measure, and rally against those who delay or block its passage,” they concluded.

 
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