Tobacco farmer in Ilocos sur.
Ernesto Maceda and Jack Enrile, son of Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, are two candidates that Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong and elsewhere should not vote in the 2013 mid-term senatorial elections in the Philippines.
Simple. Because they don’t have the genuine interests of the Filipino at heart. And they made this very clear – unwittingly – through the election campaign promise which they gave during a public forum on April 20 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
On April 21, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s online edition [http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/395009/maceda-enrile-want-sin-tax-law-amended] cited Maceda and Enrile as saying that they will both seek to change the law which recently raised steeply the government tax on local and foreign brand cigarettes. They said the so-called “Sin Tax” law will deal a severe blow to tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region.
Clearly, the pair are out to get the maximum possible votes from Ilocanos – at whatever costs. Or to put it more bluntly – to hell with the exorbitant costs of smoking to the general health and welfare of millions of Filipino smokers!
To sum up the advocacy of Maceda and Enrile – “Why should we care how many more Filipino smokers get stricken with cancer as long as we get as many Ilocano votes as we can!”
Without an iota of any doubt, their position is opportunistic, callous and extremely selfish.
Of course, their election campaign promise to tobacco farmers and their dependents was undoubtedly sweet music to their ears.
But have these farmers and their dependents ever thought that Maceda and Enrile were effectively disrespecting them by regarding them as naïve and even idiots?
In the event the pair win the senatorial elections, do they really stand a chance of delivering on their election pledge, i.e. a reduction in Sin Taxes? Highly unlikely, if not remote.
Why is this so?
Let’s consider several key factors.
More and more Filipinos are scared of being struck with cancer. For obvious reasons. Cancer kills and there is still no known effective cure for it. That cigarette smoking causes cancer and that it kills have been proven in the United States and in other countries. This is precisely the reason why governments around the world, including Hong Kong, are increasingly tightening their laws relating to the sale of cigarettes.
How can lawmakers in the Philippines possibly go against this global tide – without incurring the anger of most Filipinos?
And as for tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region, they need be deprived of their income source even if the government tightens further laws on the sale and consumption of cigarettes and tobacco.
All they need to do is to train their sight on Baguio which remains a major producer of various high-value vegetables and fruits, like strawberries. If not tobacco, they can certainly consider shifting their attention and focus to alternative crops, such as vegetables and fruits suitable to their region. This is easier said than done, of course. But it is certainly doable and which must be done sooner than later, especially as the specter of cancer looms ever larger across the world including the Philippines.
Question: Why didn’t Maceda and Enrile see fit to offer a more viable and effective solution to a potential livelihood problem of tobacco farmers in the future?
The answer is clear as daylight: they’re more interested in getting as much Ilocano votes as they can NOW, not so much in their potential financial hardships in the future.