PNP-Northern Mindanao: 'No apprehension records'
Prior to the Executive Order (EO) 26, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, there were already existing national laws, including local ordinances pertaining to the regulation of smoking and sale of tobacco in public areas in local government units (LGUs).
Despite their existence, the Department of Health (DOH) in Northern Mindanao has observed that only few LGUs have active task forces that look into the implementation of these laws and ordinances. The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Northern Mindanao doesn't even have records of apprehension, since it was expected for LGUs to lead the enforcement.
Prior to his re-assignment, Police Superintendent Lemuel Gonda, then PNP-Northern Mindanao spokesperson, said that he double-checked with the regional operations section and revealed that these apprehensions must be recorded in the LGUs, especially that there are more than just one laws and ordinances being implemented.
"Gikuan gyud nato ni una ang LGU nga mo-implement gyud aning smoking ban, with regards sa violations, especially sa kaning pagpamaligya sa sigarilyo sa mga minors kini pung mga minors nga gagamit sa sigarilyo," Gonda said in an interview in May.
(We, at PNP, are expecting that the LGUs will implement first the smoking ban, with regards to violations like selling cigarettes to minors and minors using it.)
But Gonda assured that the PNP-Northern Mindanao is active in partnering with LGUs to provide enforcement and detention to smoking ban violators.
Anti-'tambay' as opportunity vs anti-smoking
Following the pronouncement of Duterte on the apprehension of bystanders or "tambay," police have conducted nationwide operations. But in Cagayan de Oro City, the anti-tambay campaign also became an opportunity to also pursue people who smoke in public places.
Between June 28 and July 9, the Cagayan de Oro Police Office (Cocpo) has recorded only three violators of the smoking ban.
In an earlier report, Cocpo spokesperson Superintendent Mardy Hortillosa II said these people were not detained but were only reprimanded and told to go home. Hortillosa added that the police office would clarify the local laws before strictly enforcing them.
City Administrator Teddy Sabuga-a said they plan to incorporate the smoking ban with the city's intensified anti-tambay crackdown, authorizing the police to arrest violators.
A sub-program under DOH-Northern Mindanao was the Lifestyle-Related Disease of the Local Health Division. Its head, Dr. Andresa Beñas, said that one of its functions is to engage with LGUs in the region with regards to information dissemination and literacy on health-related issues especially on tobacco or cigarette smoking.
Also, its office is assisting LGUs in their plans to implement measures that would curb smoking use and sales. However, Beñas admitted that the willpower to implement these measures depend on the leadership of LGUs based on what they deemed as a priority.
"Practically, the plans are there, but also, we don't see something is 'moving' as an urgent matter for them," she said, referring to some LGUs in Northern Mindanao.
Now that the EO 26 was added in the list of anti-smoking regulations to follow, Beñas is hoping that LGUs need to have an active task force that requires consistent "follow-ups."
"However it needs to be followed up whether it's being acted upon by the people. The thing is it needs task force. Example, you have an EO, but down the line... was there a monitor... was there none smoking in public places," Beñas said.
Beñas mentioned the Provincial Government of Misamis Occidental for promoting its anti-smoking ordinances, although she said that not all LGUs under the province's jurisdiction made a strict compliance, but its performance is one of the region's model LGUs when it comes to implementation.
"There are also provinces that are ongoing (promotion and implementation) that have ordinances. One is Bukidnon, next is Camiguin... In Misamis Oriental, one prominent (implementing LGU) there is Talisayan - because it's the first to receive an award in 2008," she said.
Beñas cited both Misamis Occidental and Talisayan town to be recipients of the "Red Orchid Award," an annual recognition by DOH to the LGUs and government agencies in the country that observe and comply with non smoking policies in their areas, aligned with the guidelines set by World Health Organization and other local policies and laws in the country.
She said Misamis Occidental has been an awardee for 10 consecutive years, as Talisayan was the only municipality to recognized in 2008 in the national stage.
"There were five cities and municipalities during that time of awarding. Talisayan was the only municipality as all the rest were cities, that's all of the Philippines," she said.
After Talisayan, other municipalities followed suit in vying for the award and the implementation of their non-smoking ordinances: these were the towns of Lugait, Binuangan, and Gingoog City, all of which were under the province of Misamis Oriental.
Cagayan de Oro: A curious case
The city of Cagayan de Oro is considered the "Gateway of Northern Mindanao," implying that it's the region's "capital" and yet the city has yet to catch up with other LGUs in the region when it comes to anti-smoking ordinance implementation.
There was a time in the city when every Fridays and Saturdays of the week, people would flock to the heart of the city known as Divisoria for the weekly Night Market, commonly known as "Night Cafe."
In April 2010, former mayor Constantino Jaraula issued a local EO that prohibits smoking in the public especially during the Night Market events.
Even before the EO, there was an existing city ordinance that prohibits smoking in public places as well, but it was observed that it was not strictly implemented, especially so, the city's long-serving mayor, Vicente Emano, is also known for his smoking habits. Emano was the predecessor of Jaraula, and after the latter's first term, Emano resumed again his mayorship until 2013 when the incumbent Oscar Moreno defeated him in the midterm elections.
Last year, the City Council revived the old ordinance and came up with an updated version. It is still pending though for final reading and passage. The committee on health sanitation and health insurance chaired by Councilor Ma. Lourdes Gaane, who is also a medical doctor, has also been conducting consultations and hearing with local sectors.
Speaking on behalf of Gaane and the City Council, Councilor Jay Roa Pascual said there are still ongoing talks with different sectors and discussions on specific provisions of the new ordinance, but he said this would be aligned to the EO 26.
"There are certain considerations, like including vapes, since there are still debates whether vaping is considered smoking or not. So, there has to be a separate resolution to be made for that," he said.
Meanwhile, Sabuga-a said it took a year before the city implemented the EO because consultations and meetings were conducted to answer the debate whether enforcers would also arrest "vapers" or smoking "e-cigarettes."
"We are still going to meet with the task force and make guidelines to guide our police but certainly, this ordinance will be implemented along with our anti-drinking in public ordinance," he said in an earlier report.
As soon as the EO 26 was signed last year, Mayor Moreno already signified his support through his earlier pronouncements. In a recent interview with SunStar, Moreno said it is upon the people that the local anti-smoking would become successful and consistently observed.
"When you talk about enforcement, what's important there is the people (their decisions, willpower)," he said.
(With reports from Alwen Saliring and Pamela Jay Orias)