Sen. Recto champions the poor by keeping cigarettes affordable

The tobacco industry waged a scorched earth campaign against the House version of the sin tax not because they were out to protect their humongous profits but because they are for the little guy, the poor schmuck who will bear the burden of sin taxes. They found an ally in Sen Ralph Recto, champion of the poor. 

Echoing the concern of the tobacco industry Recto said,  “…contrary to the myth, the higher tax we are mulling will not be levied on a couple of taipans, or a foreign tobacco colossus, or a beer giant. The ones who will ultimately bear the additional tax burden are ordinary folks, like the worker who likes to cap his day with a cocktail of rum and coke or the call center employee who grabs a bottle of ice cold beer before he hits the road. In short, we are not taxing companies here but people. In the end, it is not big tobacco or the giant brewery who will pay, but small people.” Kawawa naman ang mga mahirap, inaapi lagi. Heartfuckingwarming concern, isn’t it?

Sen. Ralph Recto, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and husband of Vilma Santos the Star for All Seasons, saw through the anti-poor arguments of health talibans. He exposed the government’s evil plan to finance the development of the country on the backs of the poor – “Lalo na sa isang batas na papataw ng buwis hindi sa mga dambuhalang kumpanya pero sa ordinaryong mamamayan” – and he would have none of it. So he threw out the anti-poor House version of the sin tax bill and introduced a bill that might as well have been written by the pro-poor tobacco industry. By so doing he demonstrated that a tobacco conglomerate and a senator elected by his wife’s fans can band together to keep cancer within easy reach of the less fortunate. 

Recto took the late great President Ramon Magsaysay’s dictum – “Those who have less in life should have more in the law” – and turned it into “Those who have less in life should have more than one puff.” What else can you expect from a man who values equality? 

Moreover, Recto is a nationalist like his illustrious grandfather Claro M. Recto. He is against higher taxes on tobacco because, as he said in his sponsorship speech, “under a regime of super high sin taxes, the local players will be taxed to extinction, or elbowed out of the market by foreign-made tobacco and alcohol products.” There is no way that Don Claro’s grandson is going to allow British American Tobacco to elbow out local players like Philip Morris/Fortune Tobacco. Nationalism runs in his blood.

The partnership between Recto and the tobacco industry proves that together businessmen and politicians can lift the poor from the embarrassment of not being able to afford lung cancer. Thanks to Recto and the tobacco industry the yaya and her señorito, the señora and her D.I., can now cough together and exchange chemotherapy stories as equals. Recto’s sin tax bridges the gap between the rich and the poor, the master and his servant. It brings them together through shared experiences. Why should the rich have a monopoly on tobacco-related diseases?

No one has argued the tobacco industry’s case on behalf of the poor better than Sen. Ralph Recto. Recto should be working as a highly paid advocate for Philip Morris/Fortune Tobacco and not as a mere Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. He should get his salary from them not from taxpayers because he deserves better pay and a more respectable means of livelihood. Let’s show the good senator how much we appreciate him by helping him find a better life for himself and his family. 

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • GabbyD

    he explicitly said that its about preserving the domestic industry.

    • manuelbuencamino

      He did. Proudly.

  • So let me get this straight, the guy who was responsible for increasing VAT from 10 to 12 per cent to balance the budget under Mrs Arroyo is now not in favour of doing the same through sin taxes under Pres Aquino?

    Is this sudden conversion to populism a result of his smarting from his loss in the 2007 elections?

    • UPnnGrd

      another possibility, as manuBuen suggests…. the guy is a shill for his circle of KKK’s and/or campaign contributors..

      • UPnnGrd

        My opinion??? I don’t think PersiNoy will renege on his campaign pledge to Makati Business Club.

    • manuel buencamino

      Recto is not up for reelection in 2013 so I doubt he is pandering to tobacco and alcohol consumers. As to losing in 2007, I think that is more about being in GMA’s ticket than his role in VAT.

  • UPnnGrd

    It is completely legal…. and it is practiced, isn’t it.??? Isn’t it acceptable and legal that Pilipinas congressmen and senators (and maybe even Vice President and Persidente for all I know ) It is completely legal…. and some or many of Pilipinas elected representatives have taken paychecks from sideline jobs. You know… as spokespersons for Nestle milk products or Vitamin-this or that… or as ribbon-cutter endorsers of Jollibbee or McDo.


    • manuel buencamino

      No I’m not! I hate bleedingheartlibhealthnazis. I hate seat belts,crash helmets, and no smoking zones as much as the next budguzzlingpatriotincowboybootsandstetson.

      I love Recto. I wish he became a proctologist instead of a senator. Dr. Recto, Proctologist. Nice ring to it, right?

      • Very nice. Glad to see you have not gone over to the other side. Sorry for my excitement.

  • GabbyD

    recto’s argument is a standard econ argument about the elasticity of supply. if supply is highly elastic, total sales will fall alot, tax revenue will then not be as high as expected, and ultimately, consumers are gonna bear most of the burden of the tax.

    i have no idea what the relevant elasticities are, or if the govt even estimated (or even guessed!) what these might be.

    • manuelbuencamino


      I think an addiction can throw off that whole elasticity theory. Nicotine addiction is just as hard to break as heroin and crack habits and you know that price has never prevented addicts from feeding their monkeys.

      • UPnnGrd

        ManuBuen: You are wrong ( at least based on USA numbers ). Price (like a pack of cigarettes costing as much as a gallon of gasoline) is driving nicotine-addicts to seek medical help.

  • UPnnGrd

    Maybe Sen Recto is already working as a highly paid advocate for Philip Morris/Fortune Tobacco, and I know one way that Malakanyang can prove this. Solution is for PNP (as requested by BIR or Lacierda) to listen to Sen Recto as he uses that portable device that can do instant messaging and e-mail. And if in an mergency this makes Sec deLima again ignore a Supremo Korte TRO …. no problemo…. sec deLima can say “Police Powers!!!”.