Disputed Senate proceeding imperils sin tax law

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    FORMER senator Francisco Tatad has warned the recent enactment of the “sin tax” law on alcohol and heated tobacco and vapor products, or Republic Act 11467, can be voided because of an invalid act of the Senate.

    Tatad said the validity of the approval of Senate Bill No. 1074 and subsequently the legality of RA 11467 has been put in question in light of the criminal and administrative complaint filed against Senate Secretary Myra Villarica before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly falsifying the Senate Journal to augment what actually happened during the third reading approval of SBN 1074.

    Tatad said that because of questions on the validity of the Senate proceeding, and its subsequent impact on the legality of the new law, critics of the sin tax law can use the Ombudsman complaint as basis to strike down RA 11467.

    “The basic issue that will be raised now is this: Is the sin tax law a valid law? Since the Senate proceeding has been questioned before the Ombudsman, and once this is proven to be true, then the measure as approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President will become invalid,” the former senator said.

    “The Senate Secretary deviated from the standard, and this is not acceptable. Her act will have dire consequences on the validity and legality of the measure passed by the Senate and the law that subsequently became its by-product,” Tatad said.

    A group called Concerned Employees of the Senate has filed criminal and administrative charges against Villarica for allegedly falsifying the Senate Journal dated December 16, 2019 by inserting paragraphs to make it appear that the title of SBN 1074 was read into the record before it was subjected to a third reading vote.

    The unnamed employees have claimed that such reading of the title did not happen, and attached as proof a video recording of the Senate plenary session on the same date.

    Villarica has made no comment on the complaint, saying she has yet to read the allegations.

    Tatad stressed that the Rules of the Senate strictly requires that all measures shall be approved on third reading, and that the title of the bill be read into the record first, before a nominal voting of present senators is called to order.

    “This was not done in this case. Because of the Senate Secretary’s indiscretion, the legality and validity of an important law will now be hanging in the balance,” Tatad said.