By Mar Supnad
BALANGA CITY, Bataan – In deciding that the anti-smoking ordinance of this city was unconstitutional and invalid, a regional court has set a big setback on the anti-smoking drive of the province and other towns banning the smoking.
In his 25-page decision, Judge Philger Noel Inovejas ruled that the ordinance amends, modifies and expands the prohibition concerning the use, sale, distribution, and advertisement of tobacco products by imposing a total ban.”
Inovejas’ decision came after the Phil Tobacco Institute argued that Philip Morris Philippines would lose P15 million in sales due to the ordinance.
But Rep. Joet Garcia of the 2nd district-Bataan expressed solidarity with the City of Balanga (COB) in fighting for its “Go Smoke Free” campaign, which encourages its residents not to smoke and not to be exposed to cigarette smoke in order to achieve a healthy population.
In Samal town, which has also enacted a smoke-free ordinance, Vice Mayor Aida Macalinao said that the objective of their anti-smoking ordinance is to protect the health of the people and is legal based on local government code.
“The point here is that we crafted the anti-smoking ordinance following the death of a number of people who are chain smokers,” pointed out Macalinao as she stressed the need to appeal the decision of the court.
Despite this setback, Rep. Garcia remained steadfast that the challenged ordinance, enacted pursuant to the COB’s police power to promote the general welfare and the Constitutional policy of the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people, will be upheld in the end once they appeal the decision.
Commenting on the effect of the RTC decision, Rep. Garcia stressed that it is perhaps the constitutionality of selling cigarettes that
should be re-examined instead, since it is addictive and causes death, and thus, against the right to life.
In Imbong vs. Ochoa, the Supreme Court said that a component to the right to life is the constitutional right to health. It declared that Sec. 15, Article II of the Constitution, which provides that, “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them,” is a self-executing provision. (G.R. No. 204819 – 8April 2014)
Rep. Garcia, who was the city mayor when the ordinance was enacted, added that the City Council is well within its power under the Local Government Code to enact a zoning ordinance where most of the schools are located for the protection of its constituents, most of whom are minors and students within the University Town area.
“While we recognize the interests of the tobacco industry, the challenged ordinance is consistent with the President’s Executive Order No. 26, which expressly provides that public health takes precedence over any commercial or business interest. Scientific studies have shown that smoking kills and is one of the leading causes of death in the whole world,” Rep. Garcia continued.
He stressed further: “Consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke have long been acknowledged to cause death, stroke, coronary heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary diseases and other forms of cancer. The unrestricted sale and smoking of cigarettes and the continued exposure of the people to its deleterious effects constitute an unwarranted destruction of human life itself.”