Quezon City – The tobacco industry in the Philippines has become more active in attempting to intervene in policymaking, government processes and even the decisions of public officers, according to the Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report (Report) 2019.
Meddling in the affairs of the government to advance its agenda is a known pattern of behavior displayed by the tobacco industry in any state it operates in. This behavior has come to be termed as “tobacco industry interference.”
“As compared to previous years, the total score of the Philippines in the Index has increased indicating stronger interference by the tobacco industry, as well as, possibly, lesser capacity of the government to resist or prevent such interference,” the Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report 2019 stated.
According to the Report, which was released by HealthJustice Philippines, a leading think tank and advocate for pro-health and tobacco control measures, the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) and the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), which promote the tobacco industry, are still members in the Inter-agency Committee Tobacco (IACT) despite their obvious conflict of interest. The IACT is the body primarily tasked to implement and monitor the Tobacco Regulation Act (RA 9211) and Graphic Health Warnings Law (RA 10643).
The Report is released annually to effect meaningful compliance with the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), whose Article 5.3 requires the Parties thereof “to act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”
“In terms of tobacco industry participation in policy development, it is apparent that there is continued strong tobacco industry participation in tobacco control policy development and implementation. Tobacco industry representatives were invited to provide inputs and comments on proposed bills in meetings and hearings held by the House of Representatives. Proposed bills reflected the adoption of the industry position, demonstrating industry origin or draftsmanship,” the Report continued.
The Report also pointed out that NTA was part of the delegation to the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO FCTC (COP8) held last October.
Benedict Nisperos, Legal Consultant of HealthJustice, said that the WHO FCTC is not the only legal basis for protecting the bureaucracy against tobacco industry interference. “The Department of Health-Civil Service Commission Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01 prohibits all civil servants regardless of rank or status from engaging in unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry, giving preferential treatment to the tobacco industry, and accepting any form of gift, donation, or sponsorship from the tobacco industry,” Nisperos said.
Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), emphasized that tobacco industry interference is a “core challenge to public health.” “Ultimately, the need to lessen if not eliminate tobacco industry interference boils down to the duty of every State to protect its people’s right to health. Ensuring a tobacco-free environment is a necessary consequence of this duty. This cannot be done if the tobacco industry is permitted to meddle in the policymaking process and the daily operations of the government,” said Dorotheo.
“The findings of the Index Report is alarming especially with the so-called CSR activities of the industry that took advantage of the vulnerability of the communities and institutions which received bread numbs from the billion-pesos industry.” Cynthia Esquillo of the group RIGHTS asserted. RIGHTS is a local network of non-government agencies monitoring tobacco industry interference in cities and municipalities.
The Index is intended as a gauge for measuring tobacco industry interference or attempts by the industry to meddle in policymaking and to dilute and defeat health and tobacco control measures.
The level of tobacco industry interference is approximated by systematically examining and recording the behavior and various acts of the tobacco industry, which include interacting with government officials, donating to public schools, submitting draft bills to legislators, among others.
Download here: HJ Press Release_01August2019