HealthJustice Philippines, a public health policy think tank with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, launched last September 29 at Seda Vertis North the Tobacco Industry Interference Index Philippine Report 2017, which revealed, among others, that “there has been no decrease in so-called CSR activities by the tobacco industry or its groups.”
“Tobacco companies are still vigorously circumventing health and tobacco control policies by initiating partnerships with government agencies, local government units and public officials under the guise of conducting corporate social responsibility programs. They hide behind their so-called foundations and welfare organizations, deceiving the public and authorities into believing that they are not violating the Civil Service Commission – Department of Health Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-01 (CSC-DOH JMC 2010-01), which generally prohibits interaction between the government and tobacco industry,” said Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza, President of HealthJustice.
“In 2016, most of the so-called CSR activities were done by the CSR arm of Mighty Corporation, Wong Chu King Foundation. The foundation engaged in several activities such as school feeding, donations to police stations, and schools,” the report stated.
World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and CSC-DOH JMC 2010-01 prohibit interaction between the government and all its branches and instrumentalities, including local government units, and the tobacco industry, except when absolutely necessary and strictly and solely for the purpose of monitoring compliance with tobacco control measures. The JMC aims to preserve the integrity of the bureaucracy and protect it from undue influence coming from the tobacco industry, known for systematically employing political and economic resources to advance its agenda.
According to the World Health Organization, “the tobacco industry has used its economic power, lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product. [The] tobacco industry continues to inject large philanthropic contributions into social programs worldwide to create a positive public image under the guise of corporate social responsibility.”
The most common forms of tobacco industry interference include offering free medical assistance, donating school supplies and books to educational institutions, and providing technical assistance to public officers.
“In light of this unabating interference exerted by the tobacco industry, we reiterate our call to Congress to amend RA 9211 and remove the representative of the tobacco industry from the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T), the government body tasked to lead the implementation of tobacco control laws. There is a conflict of interest in such a situation because of the vested, commercial interests of the tobacco industry and the state’s mandate to protect public health,” Fernandez-Mendoza added.
HealthJustice is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a Programme Partner of the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts, advocates, and civil society groups working to decrease the burden of non-communicable diseases.