Gov Marcos supports examination of RA 7171 in aid of legislation

Jul 27, 2017 ...

Following the hearing last July 25 at the House of Representatives investigating Ilocos Norte's allocation of tobacco funds, Governor Imee R. Marcos has pointed out that Republic Act (RA) 7171 or Tobacco Excise Tax could use close examination and possibly amendments to clarify its provisions and avoid future confusion.

Marcos said that aside from local government executives, even the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Commission on Audit (COA) "have always had a little bit of a struggle" for the sin taxes' usage.

"Talagang lehitimo ang pagnanais na baguhin ang batas na 'yan o 'di kaya'y siyasatin nang maigi," she urged. "Maganda nga na pakialaman ng Kongreso iyan para ang masalimuot na usapin na 'iyan ay matapos na at malinawaan." The House investigation had questioned Ilocos Norte's purchase of motor vehicles using the tobacco fund as well as the process by which the transactions were made.

 "There are certain disputes even within COA kung ano yung allowed and not allowed... isa pang area 'yan for 'in aid of legislation' dahil pinapalawak ni President Duterte, who was a local executive for ages and ages, naintindihan niya that on the ground, it's very difficult."

She pointed out the urgency of buying supplies especially during times of calamity as well as the lack of eligible suppliers in areas far from Metro Manila.

"'Pag emergency, 'pag nasa lokal, talagang mapipilitan kang magbayad ng cash paminsan-minsan... hindi naman ibig sabihin na 'pag in cash, ibubulsa mo," she said.

Marcos added that the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) had issued previous memos indicating that the procurement of trucks using RA 7171 should be included in its provisions in order to stabilize prices from farm-gate to market-gate "pero dumaan ng dalawang administrasyon, hindi pa napipirmahan."

Purchasing motor vehicles including minitrucks, which were distributed to farmers and barangay captains, was justified as a livelihood project "to enhance farmers income" and as a "post-harvest facility" as the vehicles saved farmers' expenses in transporting produce to and from the market.

She also pointed out that vehicles had been repeatedly requested by her constituents from the agriculture sector as Ilocos Norte is known for "so many roads, nothing to ride," and that the purchases were duly supported by Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolutions and budgets, project statements, and the annual investment programs (AIPs) of the province.

The cash advances used for the transactions had also been fully liquidated.

"COA did not do their job" - Rep. Umali

In the July 25 hearing, the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability also questioned COA.

"Kung ginawa ng COA ang trabaho niya, dapat hindi ito nangyari," said Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali.

While COA had written an audit observation memorandum (AOM) in 2013 saying that using cash advances for the transactions exposed funds to misuse, these observations had not been included in annual reports nor forwarded to the COA regional or national offices.

The said AOM had also not been received by Marcos, hence her "good faith" that there were no irregularities.

COA Regional Director Michael R. Bacani also stated, "Sa annual audit report, walang ganoong nakasulat dahil... sa [provincial] level pa lang ng audit team ay wala silang ini-raise na issue... Walang umakyat sa Regional Office."

Marcos had expressed at the hearing her desire "makatulong sa pag-amyenda ng bagong batas," reiterating again that the investigation is to be done in aid of legislation.

The House is to convene and address the issue, under Resolution No. 882, on August 9.

by PGIN-CMO



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