Position Statement of the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine on House Bill 4144

The Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine stands by the PCP and the entire medical community in opposing House Bill 4144 and its amendments to the Sin Tax Law.  Republic Act No 10351 or the Sin Tax Law is barely 5 years old and while we have already seen its significant benefits for our country in the form of the reduction in smoking prevalence and the generation of income for universal health care coverage, we believe that it could still do a lot more if we allow it to work. The current move to amend the Sin Tax in the guise of protecting the welfare of local producers or increasing revenue is suspicious given that only 4 years have passed since these matters that are being proposed by HB 4144 were discussed at length and decided the during the 15th Congress. Even the current administration through both the Department of Health and the Department of Finance have expressed their opposition to this measure saying that the Sin Tax Law of 2012 has not been allowed to run its course. Thus, we see this current effort to amend the Sin Tax Law or any move at this point in time as an attempt to co-opt and undermine the gains of the Sin Tax law, and that it should be opposed at all cost.

Cigarette smoking is dangerous. It harms nearly every organ of the body and remains the number one cause of preventable deaths. Unfortunately, minutes spent educating patients about the risks of smoking have not been massively effective in curtailing this habit. The efforts to prevent smoking- related health hazards should not just be from the doctors and health workers. We realize now that we need commitment from our government – both from the executive and legislative sides to participate and to advocate with us. We realize now that by working with our government, we can make a difference in preventing disease and promoting the health and well-being of our countrymen.

We now appeal to the Duterte administration and to the Senate to look more closely into the proposed amendments – we fear that these changes would not only bring down the funds from Sin Tax Law used to subsidize health care but also undermine the documented positive effects of the initial implementation of law in stopping the habit. These undesirable consequences are unfortunately expected to be magnified in the poor. We firmly believe that efforts should always be geared towards protecting the poor and marginalized sectors of our community and towards promoting equity. No to HB 4144!