By Rio N. Araja
LAWYERS from the University of the Philippines on Thursday threw their support behind former secretaries of the Department of Health in urging the Supreme Court to act on a consolidated case of graphic health warnings against cigar manufacturers.
Lawyers Diana Triviño Ipat Luna, Raul Pangalanan, Evita Ricafort, Rosario Larracas and Patricia Miranda, all volunteer lawyers from UP, filed a motion with the High Court, requesting oral arguments on three consolidated cases of DoH vs. Mighty (Corp.), DoH vs. Fortune (Tobacco Corp.) and (former health secretary Juan) Flavier, et al. vs. Fortune, et al.
The UP lawyers were joined by Atty. Carla Rocas, a lawyer from Ateneo de Manila University.
Ipat, Miranda, Rocas and Triviño are also legal counsels of HealthJustice Philippines, a non-stock non-profit organization composed of public health advocates.
“It is clear that Filipinos need the graphic health warnings to better educate them about the dangers of smoking,” HealthJustice project manager Triviño told reporters, citing a study that states that the Philippines is one of the top smoking nations in the world, and that 240 Filipinos die each day due to tobacco-related illnesses.
The lawyers represented former health secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Alfredo Bengzon, Francisco Duque, Jaime Galvez Tan, the late Alfredo Romualdez and Flavier.
In 2010, the DoH invoked Administrative Order 2010-13, the Consumer Act and Article 11 of the World Health Organization framework convention on tobacco control, a public health treaty to which the Philippines was a party, requiring tobacco manufacturers to place picture warnings on packs and prohibits misleading descriptors, such as light, ultra or mild on the packaging and on labels.
Tobacco firms filed separate suits against the health department before various courts.
“We pray that the SC would allow us to be heard,” said.
Citing a United States of America-Food and Drug Administration study, Triviño said the implementation of such warnings had reduced smoking rates by 2.87 percent to 4.68 percent in Canada, resulting in a reduction of 12.1 percent to 19.6 percent from 2000 to 2009.