Health group denounces tobacco industry’s ‘attempt to financially influence’ Duterte
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HealthJustice Philippines, a public health think tank and advocacy group active in tobacco control and health promotion, expressed dismay over the tobacco industry’s attempt to bribe the President. The attempted bribery was disclosed by Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo and confirmed by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella. Abella said during a press conference held today that there was an “attempt” by a tobacco manufacturer to “financially influence” the President.
“We condemn this action by the tobacco industry. Evidence shows that the tobacco industry is known for its underhanded moves to subvert public health for its own commercial interests. That a tobacco manufacturer had the gall to even think it could buy off the chief executive leader of the land is particularly reprehensible. This speaks volumes about the industry’s connections, resources and more importantly, how far it is willing to go to protect their profits at the expense of health and lives,” said Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, member of the Board of Trustees of HealthJustice.
Yesterday, the Palace announced that President Duterte was poised to sign the Executive Order enforcing a nationwide smoking ban today, March 7. However, the Palace afterwards announced that order needed to be modified to conform to existing laws.
The tobacco industry has historically employed its massive financial resources and political capital to influence governments with a view to diluting health policies. This behavior of the tobacco industry has come to be known as “tobacco industry interference.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that “the tobacco industry has used its economic power, lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product.”
The Civil Service Commission – Department of Health Joint Memorandum Circular (CSC-DOH JMC) 2010-01 prohibits unnecessary interaction between the tobacco industry and the government. Under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the international health treaty to which the Philippines is signatory, governments should maintain its distance from the tobacco industry so as to deprive the latter of any opportunity to taint its integrity and defeat public health policies.
“240 people die every day because of preventable smoking-related diseases, and the tobacco industry would like to increase that number. This brazen move by a tobacco manufacturer should put us on guard against any more of its attempts to advance its own interests to the detriment of public health. Let us strive to clean up the social and political structures that emboldened it to engage in the dirtiest tactics we have seen so far,” Galvez-Tan added.
HealthJustice is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control.
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