Gov’t should not deal with tobacco firms – CSC

The only transactions allowed are those that entail regulating and supervising tobacco industry operations

MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) reiterated on Thursday, May 30, the policy for government agencies and employees to avoid unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry.

The joint memorandum circular between CSC and the health department, signed in 2010, is meant to prevent the interference of the industry in policy making, legislation, and judicial decisions.

The only transactions allowed are those that entail regulating and  supervising tobacco industry operations.

Through the “Race Towards Tobacco-Industry-Free Civil Service” project launched last April, the CSC will assess how effective the 2010 memorandum has been, with the aim of ensuring stricter implementation.

Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01 or the “Protection of the Bureaucracy Against Tobacco Industry Intervention” provides employees with specific guidelines in dealing with the tobacco industry and groups and persons representing their interests.

The memorandum prohibits any government official, regardless of status, to have any conflict of interest with the tobacco industry. In the event of a conflict, the official must resign from his/her position in the industry within 30 days after assuming office and divest his shares or interests within 60 days after assuming office.

Other prohibitions in the memorandum are:

  • unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry
  • preferential treatment to the tobacco industry
  • accepting gifts donations and sponsorship
  • financial interest in the tobacco industry
  • accepting other favors (ex. family members’ employment in tobacco industry)
  • engaging in an occupational activity within the tobacco industry

Read the full joint memorandum here.

Setting an example

President Benigno Aquino III signed the historic sin tax bill into law last December 20, 2012, to impose higher excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. It took the government 15 years to pass the said measure due to intense lobbying by the tobacco industry.

Last April 2013, Aquino received an award from the World Health Organization (WHO) for the said law.

“He truly embodies the principle from which WHO derives so much of its direction and inspiration: that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right,” WHO regional director for Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo said in a statement.

But the President himself is known for smoking in private, reportedly at least one pack a day, despite calls from different organizations for him to quit his vice and be an example.

Continuous efforts

JMC No. 2010-01 is not the only joint memorandum by CSC and the Department of Health (DOH) regarding tobacco control.

Last year, the Department of Education issued Department Order No. 6 series of 2012 based on the CSC-DOH joint memorandum. The memo bans interactions between public schools and the tobacco industry, including accepting donations.

WHO chief Margaret Chan denounced the tobacco industry as a “ruthless and devious enemy” and urged governments and civil society groups to unite against cigarette firms.

As the government’s central personnel agency, the CSC initiated the implementation of a smoking ban in all government premises.

Under President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, CSC, along with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, implemented total smoking bans in government offices and public spaces respectively.

These efforts have been met by court cases from tobacco firms.

The Philippines is among the top smoking countries in the world. 

WHO said tobacco-related deaths each year amount to nearly 6 million – a one-million increase from last year’s estimate by the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control.

Among the 6 million, 5 million are users and ex-users, while more than 600,000 are non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. – Rappler.com