President Rodrigo Duterte has warned the courts against issuing a temporary restraining order on his verbal directive to stop the use and importation of electronic cigarettes nationwide.
But the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said the courts still hold the power to hear any petitions challenging the legality of Duterte’s order.
IBP National President Domingo Egon Cayosa said any citizen can go to the courts to challenge the vaping ban.
“I’m sure the President as a lawyer knows that. The fact that he has articulated his position does not hinder our courts from performing their constitutional duties,” Cayosa said. “At the end of the day, any citizen who feels aggrieved by the order can actually go to the court to challenge the order.”
In a speech Wednesday evening, the President said the courts should not interfere with his imposition of total ban on vaping, the latest addition to his orders that were implemented even without written documentation.
“And they said, what’s the law? Never mind the law. The law will come. Tell them I ordered it. And I’m asking the judiciary. Any judge. I’m asking myself to the Supreme Court, I’m having a hard time controlling crime and you know all sorts of toxic materials being imbibed by the young,” Duterte said.
“Judges, I warn you, do not issue restraining orders to the Customs, to the Coast Guard. I will not obey your order because of the peculiar situation this country finds,” he added.
Citing health risks, the President issued the warning a day after he prohibited the use and importation of vaping devices and ordered the arrest of those who will be caught using e-cigarettes in public.
The Philippine National Police on Wednesday ordered all police units nationwide to enforce the ban and to ensure that all violators will be arrested.
PNP camps and offices were also declared as “No Vape Zone.”
The Department of Health has reported the first confirmed case of vaping-associated lung injury in Central Visayas involving a 16-year-old girl who complained of “sudden-onset severe shortness of breath.”
“Judges, I know that you can determine whether a vaping is good or not, but unfortunately, your indolence does not inspire confidence. It takes you too long to decide and so do not interfere in this,” Duterte said.
He also asked the police to impose the ban despite the absence of a written order from the Office of the President.
“Do not worry. Just stop it. And the police, do your work. The Armed Forces, do your work. I will take full responsibility alone. Nobody else, but me,” he said.
“You are protected because I’m ordering you a legal order preventing injury to the Filipino children,” he added.
Vaping devices were also banned in Brazil, Singapore, Thailand, the US state of Massachusetts, and India.
E-cigarettes, which vaporize a solution that users inhale, became popular as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes.
Former Supreme Court spokesman and now UP College of Law professor Theodore Te said that while he is against smoking and vaping, arresting those who vape only on the basis of Duterte’s word is wrong.
“I’m 100 percent against smoking and vaping but there is a wrong way to do the right thing and no right way to do a wrong thing. Arresting those who vape on the basis only of one person’s word is the wrong way to do the right thing,” Te said, adding that even first year law students know this.
Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Police Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa on Thursday said vape users arrested would not be detained but be brought to police stations for blotter reports.
In related developments:
• The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority tapped a team to monitor the selling, advertising and promotion of vaping products, electronic cigarettes, and tobacco products within a 100-meter perimeter of schools in Metro Manila. MMDA Health and Environmental Protection Office director Dr. Loida Alzona said the agency’s environmental enforcers will also strictly going after those establishments selling vaping devices.
• Senator Christopher Go said the President will soon issue an executive order to ban the use and importation of electronic cigarettes and vapes. The senator, who initially spoke about recommending to the President the need to regulate e-cigarettes or vape, told reporters that the President has already made a decision and will release an executive order soon.
• The Department of Finance is expecting an executive order from Malacañang that will officially ban the use of e-cigarettes or vaping in the country due to health concerns, Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Thursday.
• Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Thursday questioned the ban, saying it should not be imposed if vaping is really less dangerous than smoking. He said health authorities should be more circumspect and arm themselves with the scientific studies done in the United Kingdom and other advanced countries. With Joel E. Zurbano, Macon Ramos-Araneta, Maricel V. Cruz and Julito G. Rada