30 May 2012. Manila, Philippines. — Days after the Senate impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, two civil society organizations (CSOs) turn to legislators for answers once more: good-governance watchdog Tao Po! and public health advocacy group HealthJustice Philippines join together to ask members of the Congress and the Senate their position on tobacco control.
“Are you for Health or Tobacco?” This is the simple question posed to lawmakers.
“It is a question that needs an urgent answer,” said Charie Villa, ABS-CBN News Head for Regional News Group and advocate of Tao Po!. “The number of Filipino lives claimed by tobacco is ridiculous at 240 a day yet so few tobacco regulation bills are being passed. As members of the voting public, we need to find out the personal positions of our lawmakers,” she continued.
“Our congressmen and senators have the duty to protect public health through laws. This profiling activity will help us decide who to vote come May 2013. This will also show us where public health stands in the priorities of our lawmakers,”.said Irene Reyes, Managing Director of Health Justice.
The response provided by each legislator will be used as part of the candidate profiles being prepared by Tao Po! for the upcoming 2013 General Elections. The poll is being launched for World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), which is celebrated on the 31st of May every year. The theme for this year’s celebration is Tobacco Industry Interference.
Tobacco industry interference refers to the wide range of tactics that tobacco companies use to undermine or prevent tobacco control efforts. Worldwide, documented strategies include direct and indirect political lobbying and campaign contributions, financing of research, attempting to sway the course of creation and implementation of policies and regulations, and engaging in so-called “social responsibility initiatives” to deflect from the harmful effects of their products.
The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) identifies tobacco industry interference as the single biggest threat to tobacco control. To address this, Article 5.3 of the treaty requires parties to protect public health policies from the interests of the tobacco industry. The Philippines is one of the 174 signatories to the treaty. As such, all Filipinos, including our legislators, are duty-bound to uphold its terms.
“With this survey we hope to find our answers. Are our lawmakers protecting our health interests?” Villa added.
“There is so much information around proving how dangerous cigarette smoking is. If you are for tobacco, then you are obviously not for health. It’s as simple as that,” said Reyes.