22 August 2012. Manila, Philippines — After the release of a controversial video involving Philip Morris executive Robert Blair Carabuena as he berated and manhandled MMDA traffic enforcer Saturnino Fabros, a petition calling on the tobacco company to fire Carabuena for his actions has taken effect. Philip Morris released a statement effectively washing their hands of Carabuena, stating that he was on his personal time and not on duty for the company, and reiterating that PMFTC “does not condone inappropriate conduct by any of our employees”. Health advocates were quick to remind the community that Carabuena’s antics are the least of PMFTC’s transgressions.
“How can Philip Morris say that they do not condone inappropriate conduct from their employees when they manufacture and actively market a product that kills its users and even innocent bystanders?” says Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice, a public health NGO. “The tobacco industry kills nearly 6 million people a year. They claim 240 Filipino lives daily through tobacco-related illnesses. Getting people addicted to a lethal product – that is their reality. They cannot wash their hands of that.”
Reyes’ sentiment is echoed by Cath Maralit, sister of Nino Maralit, a man killed by a recklessly conducted tobacco promotional activity. “Our family is witness to how much Philip Morris neglects the value of life. My brother died because they wanted to sell more cigarettes at the littlest cost to them. Carabuena’s treatment of a man he saw as less powerful than him mirrors their true character.”
“The image of the tobacco industry as a ‘socially-responsible corporation’ is a façade that they have spent years projecting to the community. We shouldn’t allow them to deflect the harms of their business anymore, it’s about time people saw their true nature,” adds Reyes.