Deputy House Speaker Sergio Apostol chided an anti-smoking advocacy group for trying to get congressional authority to allow it to monitor local tobacco manufacturers and conduct its own financial audit.
“This is a ridiculous suggestion and a brazen act of undermining the government’s official function of collecting taxes,” Apostol said on Tuesday.
He noted that Congress cannot allow individuals or groups who have no public accountability to interfere with the work of government revenue agencies.
The anti-smoking advocacy group FCTC Alliance earlier backed a proposal being pushed by Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) for third-party inspections of the production facilities of tobacco companies supposedly to determine their compliance with tax regulations.
But Apostol said the group was merely trying to lure Congress into the issue after the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) had rejected the proposal.
He added that it is the same foreign company that has been lobbying for the amendment of Republic Act 10351 or the sin tax reform law.
“Besides, we will be violating our own laws if we allow this,” Apostol said, citing Section 270 of the National Internal Revenue Code or the Tax Reform Act of 1997.
He added that the law imposes fines and imprisonment for violators, including revenue officers or employees, “who divulges to any person or makes known in any manner than may be provided by law information regarding the business, income or estate of any taxpayer, the secrets, operation, style of work, or apparatus of any manufacturer or producer, or confidential information regarding the business of any taxpayer . . . ”
“Government officials and workers may be punished if the Code is violated. How much more of people with no public accountability?” Apostol said.