ESTABLISH A CORE GROUP AND TAKE ACTION
In the Philippines, members of the Core Group on Article 5.3 include high-level officials in the Department of Health, Civil Service Commission, and several NGOs. Other potential partners include the Ombudsman and anti-corruption agencies.
In July 2009, an Article 5.3 Committee was formally set up under the Department of Health to develop implementation strategies to fulfill the obligations under Article 5.3 as elaborated by the Guidelines.
The Committee is composed of DOH directors and high-level policymakers, high-level representatives from the Civil Service Commission, Office of the President, as well as civil society and NGO representatives. The body meets regularly and has created a working group for Inter-Agency Outreach, Policy Development, and Communications.
The inter-agency outreach working group coordinates the meetings with key government agencies to ensure that Article 5.3 is implemented in these agencies. The policy development working group focuses on developing strategies and policies required to promote a tobacco industry-resistant culture. The communications group develops tools, response mechanisms, and information, education, and communication (IEC) materials to raise awareness about tobacco industry interference. It has produced fact sheets, posters, and videos relating to Article 5.3. It has also developed letter templates and press
In June 2010, the DOH and CSC issued Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-01, prohibiting government workers from interacting with any tobacco corporation or company, except “when strictly necessary for the latter’s effective regulation, supervision, or control.”
Consultations with government agencies regarding Article 5.3 have encouraged some agencies to initiate their own Article 5.3-compliant policy. For instance, in January 2010, the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has required all PUVs and land transportation terminals to be 100% smoke-free. PUV drivers and operators are responsible for posting “No Smoking” signs in their vehicles, and drivers are responsible for warning their passengers and co-workers against smoking inside PUVs.
In 2010, the DOH provided initial support for CSC to conduct trainings among CSC officers on JMC implementation. The CSC continues to conduct trainings, aims to incorporate JMC implementation into existing programs, and constantly develops tools. The legal department of the CSC significantly contributes to the technical aspects of the training. Professionals in civil society contribute to these efforts as well.
The CSC continues to reach out to partners by conducting interagency 5.3 meetings on a quarterly basis. CSC personnel and lawyers also serve as resource persons in capacity-building activities of LGUs, government agencies, and other entities interested in implementing the JMC.
TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION
In August 2014, an online news agency reported that the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) was liable for unnecessary interaction with Mighty Corp., a local tobacco company. The NTA administrator posed together with a tobacco company’s president in a synchronized tree-planting activity. The tobacco company’s website reports:
NTA lauds Mighty Corp. on its contribution in the tobacco industry.” In response to this news item, the CSC wrote a letter to the NTA warning it that any activity undertaken jointly with Mighty Corporation is a form of unnecessary interaction and violates the JMC. As a response to publicly available reports that imply a possible violation of the JMC, the CSC had sent similar reminder/warning letters to a few local government units and government offices, such as the Department of Trade and Industry.
PREPARE TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES
The JMC has not eliminated TI interference but has been an effective tool to manage it. A law passed in 2003 created a mechanism for the tobacco industry to interfere. An association of tobacco companies, the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI), sits as a member of the Interagency Committee that is tasked to implement the Tobacco Regulation Act. While legislative bodies are working to change this law, the JMC serves as the tobacco control advocates’ strongest weapon to counter tobacco industry interference in this committee.
The tobacco industry, including those protecting its interests, undermines the JMC at every opportunity and seeks to have the Article 5.3-based policy revoked. The CSC continues to stand firm in order to uphold its mandate to promote integrity in public service.