By Martin Sadongdong
Police apprehended a 21-year-old young man in Lucena, Quezon on Thursday night for allegedly using vape in a public place in what could be one of the first, if not the earliest, case of electronic cigarette-related arrest following President Duterte’s verbal order.
A report reaching Camp Crame in Quezon City identified the arrested vaper as Marq Joseph Virtucio of West Employees Village, Barangay Gulang-Gulang.
Police said Virtucio was using his vape a few blocks from their house when elements of Lucena City Police Station accosted him around 8:45 p.m.
“The violator’s electronic cigarette device was confiscated from his possession and [he was] brought to Lucena CPS to be accounted and disposed appropriately,” the Lucena police said.
As of writing, Virtucio has already been released after undergoing documentation at the Lucena police detention center.
Virtucio’s arrest came as Duterte banned on Tuesday night the use of vape in public and ordered law enforcers to arrest those who will disobey his orders.
“It is toxic and [the] government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest,” Duterte was quoted as saying in a press conference in Malacanang.
However, questions were raised as no less than the officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa admitted that there was no basis to file a case against any person arrested for vape use since there remains no written law that is equivalent to the President’s verbal order.
Executive Order No. 26 prohibits smoking in public places but it does not explicitly include e-cigarettes as among those covered by the order. It was signed in May 2017.
The PNP started its crackdown on vapers in public on Wednesday but Gamboa said they were making arrests “just to implement the directive of the President.”
In a memorandum directed to all police regional directors and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) across the country, Gamboa cited EO No. 26 as the basis in arresting vapers in public.
“Enforce the said directive and ensure that all violators will be arrested and properly recorded in the police blotter, confiscated items are accounted and disposed appropriately,” Gamboa said in the directive signed on Wednesday and released on Friday.
Gamboa also tasked the CIDG and police regional directors to “coordinate with appropriate agencies including vape store owners/malls to enhance the enforcement of this directive.”
All policemen were also warned by Gamboa not to use vape in public or risk disciplinary proceedings.
“Heads of offices/commanders of units in all levels must be held accountable in the enforcement and compliance of every personnel under their commands,” Gamboa said.