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BISYO: A Special Report on Sin

The debates were heated. The deliberations were bloody. As expected, the protagonists gave no quarter. In fighting form, stakeholders of the sin products industry were back in the Senate making a case against the Malacanang-backed proposal to reform the current system of taxation on tobacco and alcohol. The proposed reforms, approved by the House of Representatives last June and now also championed by the health sector, are estimated to raise P31 billion every year in additional revenues for the government — P27 billion from the tobacco industry and P4 billion from the alcohol industry. The monies are supposed to fund universal health care. For 16 years, sin tax proponents have been pushing for reforms but have never succeeded. They claim that the current sin tax structure is flawed and that the government is, in fact, losing an average of P32 billion a year in uncollected excise taxes. But tobacco industry patrons warn of massive unemployment, rampant smuggling and a deluge of counterfeit cigarettes in case the Congress-approved bill is passed into law. With the Senate version of the sin tax bill still up in the air, the on-going debates have raised another dimension of the controversial issue — the tobacco lobby that has allegedly blocked proposed reforms and gagged media through the years. In a one-and-a-half-hour special report entitled “Bisyo,” veteran broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro probes into the sin tax reform bill — its history, the pros and cons, and the
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