In a workshop organized by HealthJustice Philippines in partnership with the Civil Service Commission, tobacco control advocates working in local government units, national government agencies and public administrative bodies signed last April 28 a manifesto cementing their commitment to protect the bureaucracy against tobacco industry interference.
The manifesto read: “We reiterate our commitment to reject all forms of interference by the tobacco industry in the setting and implementation of public policies; to deny all kinds of sponsorships from, and partnerships with, the tobacco industry, their self-styled corporate social responsibility arms, and their agents and representatives; and to avoid any interactions with the tobacco industry.”
The manifesto was signed at the conclusion of the 2-day capacity-building workshop on the implementation of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The workshop, which provided a venue for government officials to share their experiences in combating tobacco industry interference, was held on April 27-28, 2017 at the Oakwood Hotel in Ortigas.
“We are obligated under Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC to protect public health policies from the commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. The commitment of our local government officials is indispensable to the fulfilment of such duty under the said treaty,” Mary Ann Fernandez Mendoza, President of HealthJustice, said in her opening remarks.
Among the most common forms of tobacco industry interference are providing technical assistance to government officials, organizing fora, sponsoring researches, donating school supplies, feeding programs, and financial assistance for the construction of churches.
CSC Chairperson Alicia Bala also gave an inspirational message delivered by CSC Assistant Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo. “Whether you are a mayor, a director, a legal officer, or even a humble clerk; regardless of our position, the public’s well-being should always be in our best interests. And today, the public is beset by one of the biggest threats imaginable: a commercial product that provides a momentary high, but at the cost of disease, poverty, and death to its consumers,” Ronquillo shared on behalf of Bala.
Signatories to the manifesto include officers from the Department of Health, Department of Education, Metro Manila Development Authority, Bureau of Customs, as well as officials of the local governments of Davao City, Balanga City, Marikina City, Legazpi City, Alcantara (Romblon), San Jacinto (Masbate), Manila, Santiago City, Bauang (La Union), and Roxas City (Capiz).
HealthJustice Philippines is a public health group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion. It is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control and a Programme Partner of the NCD Alliance.
The Civil Service Commission, charged by the Constitution as “responsible for the promotion of morale, efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, and courtesy in the civil service”, has the power to sanction government officials and employees who violate the prohibition against tobacco industry interference as stated in the Civil Service Commission-Department of Health Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2010-01.