MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte decided during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, March 6, to sign an executive order (EO) for the Department of Health's smoking ban soon.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol told Rappler the EO could be signed as early as Tuesday, March 7.
"[President Duterte] said he will sign it tomorrow," said Piñol on Monday. He was present at the 13th Cabinet meeting which took place that afternoon.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial also told Rappler the EO would be "signed soon."
On Tuesday, Abella confirmed that Duterte is set to sign the EO "as soon as he comes to office."
At 8 am, a revision to one of the EO's provisions was submitted to the Office of the Executive Secretary, in time for Duterte's signature.
"Secretary Ubial was given the directive to make sure that part 4 of the EO would be revised and to follow the Davao model. The one that they presented allows for smoking indoors. The Davao model does not include smoking indoors and that was revised and so there will be no smoking indoors," said Abella during a Palace news briefing.
However, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo has penned a legal opinion that this revision of the EO goes against Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act.
"The DOH has a proposed measure to bring smoking areas inside buildings outside. I rendered an opinion addressed to the President that that cannot be," Panelo said in a mix of English and Filipino in a PTV4 interview on Tuesday.
He explained that the law allows smoking areas inside buildings. Thus, the proposed EO is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.
Panelo said that if ever the EO will be signed, it will be without the provision on banning smoking in enclosed spaces.
The DOH's draft, first reported in October 2016, is patterned after Davao City's ban on cigarette smoking in public places. Duterte himself implemented the ban as the city's mayor.
The EO, if indeed signed without changes, will prohibit smoking in public places, both indoor or outdoor.
These include "parks, bus stations, and even in vehicles" which are "considered public places," Ubial said in a previous interview.
As of January 2017, the draft EO had already gone through legal review and complete staff work by the presidential team.
Duterte, who suffers from Barrett's Esophagus due to his many years as a smoker, has himself said there is "no debate" about the detrimental effects smoking has on health.
Back in October 2016, the President said he is against the establishment of enclosed areas just for smokers.
"If you want to smoke, find a place where it is allowed. Now, I've always been against even building a structure inside just to accommodate smokers. That ain't the way," he said
"It must be out[side]. It must not be in an enclosed cubicle inside the building. That is not good enough," added the President.
Duterte aggressively implemented the Davao City anti-smoking ordinance as mayor.
He was known to chase smoking drivers and once even forced a tourist to swallow a cigarette butt after he heard the tourist had refused to follow the smoking ban. – with a report from Jee Geronimo / Rappler.com