Re-electionists who voted in favor of the passage of the bill seeking to increase excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products should brace themselves for the possible backlash during next year's elections. Sen. Bongbong Marcos Jr., an Ilocos native and oppositor of the sin tax bill, gave the warning during Thursday's weekly forum at the Senate. "Ang Ilocano kung bumoto 'yan, siyempre, tinitingnan bakit ninyo sinasaktan 'yung kababayan ko, bakit ninyo pinapahirapan ang kababayan ko?" he said, noting that some 2.5 million Ilocanos are dependent on the tobacco industry for their livelihood. Marcos had earlier warned that the sin tax reform measure could cause around 18,000 lost jobs and an increase in smuggling incidents. Tobacco is a major industry in Region I or the Ilocos region, which is made up of the Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan provinces. But Marcos said Ilocanos do not only reside in the north. "Ang Ilocano hindi sa norte na lang, ang Ilocano nakakalat sa buong Pilipinas," he said. "Ngayon lang natin mate-testing [pero] sa palagay ko magpaparamdam ang mga Ilokano na hindi sa norte dito sa sin tax bill." "Kahit papaano mga kamag-anak pa rin nila 'yung mga 'yun eh, mga kaibigan pa rin nila 'yun," he added. Marcos said even if he tries to campaign for pro-sin tax re-electionists, it might not have an effect. "Kagaya ng sabi ko kahit sabihin na lang natin malakas ako sa botante diyan pag pinilit ko sasabihin ko na tulungan ninyo itong kandidatong ito, pag alam nila na 'yung kandidatong 'yun ay lumaban sa kanila, bumoto 'yung sa final version ng sin tax bill, alam ko na sagot: boss, 'di namin magagawa 'yan dahil hindi kami tinulungan niyan," he said. 'Ready to pay the price' Senators Edgardo Angara, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Sergio Osmena III, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, and Antonio Trillanes IV voted for the ratification of the measure. Only Pimentel and Trillanes are re-electionists, but Angara's son, Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, is running for a Senate seat. In an interview with reporters on Thursday, Pimenetel said he is "willing to pay the price" for his decision. "So be it, na 'yung consequence. Basta ang importante you try you best to understand the issues and then you consult your constituents and then you consult your conscience and then come up with your final decision and then pay the final price and also reap the rewards," he said. In a text message to GMA News Online, Trillanes said that what Marcos warned about is only "political reality." "I voted based on what's good for the majority of the Filipino people and that the interests of the tobacco farmers were definitely considered," he said. Marcos also said that Trillanes had acknowledged the possible effect of his vote to his candidacy. "Nag-usap na kami niyan, [sabi niya] alam ko tatamaan ako niyan sa norte. Alam niya," he said. In the same manner, Marcos said he is sure re-electionists already thought about the so-called Catholic vote in connection with the reproductive health (RH) bill. "I'm sure kung re-electionist ka you will take into consideration for the most part Katoliko ang Pilipino," he said. "They always have something to worry about kasi kampanya yan, eleksyon 'yan," he added. Last resort Meanwhile, Marcos said some tobacco firms are considering transferring operations to another country because of the measure. "Narinig ko sa isang tobacco manufacturer, sabi nila isasara na lang namin 'yung planta namin dito, bubuksan namin sa labas, bibilhin namin 'yung tobacco sa Pilipinas gagawin naming sigarilyo tapos ibebenta as an imported cigarette," he said. He explained that this will free them from high excise taxes. "For distilled spirits and tobacco, all imported goods are not taxed. Ang binabayad lang nila customs duty," Marcos noted. "Negosyante 'yun nag-iisip sila kung papaano sila makaka-recover. Kung pipiltin nila, sabi nila hindi na kami kikita rito. Ang iniisip lang naman nila paano kumita, 'yun ang one of their options," he added. "If you look at the numbers, that might be their best option," Marcos said. Marcos said they will study the sin tax bill more to see if they can bring it up to the Supreme Court. "We will definitely be stding to see if meron talagang flaws dun sa present version.” — KBK, GMA News
Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday announced a $1.8-billion military upgrade to help defend his country's maritime territory against "bullies", amid an ever-worsening dispute with China.