MMDA: Smoking ban holds as TRO has yet to take effect

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Thursday said it would continue to enforce the ban on public smoking in Metro Manila because the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by a Mandaluyong court was not yet in effect.

As this developed, the lawyer of the two men who filed the case against the MMDA admitted that his law firm used to work with tobacco giant Philip Morris Companies Inc.

According to MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino, they will continue to go after people who smoke out in the streets as the petitioners have yet to pay the P100,000 bond for the case as of Thursday.

“That’s the condition set by the court. The TRO will take effect only after they pay the bond,” he said, adding that the agency would seek a motion for reconsideration with the court.

The P100,000 bond will cover claims for damages should the court’s final decision favor the MMDA.

Tolentino maintained that the complainants “were planted and their arrest by our environmental enforcers was planned, that’s why we can say that some businessmen are interested in this case.”

On Aug. 15, Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 213 Judge Carlos Valenzuela issued the TRO based on the petition filed by security guards Anthony Clemente and Vrianne Lamson. Both were fined P500 each by the MMDA for smoking on a sidewalk in Cubao, Quezon City, last month.

On Tuesday, Clemente reportedly admitted in a television interview that he filed the case because he was promised money by a tobacco firm.

The following day, he executed an affidavit denying the news report.

His lawyer, Luis de la Paz, dismissed as “unreliable” the news report that his client was offered money to file the petition. He said that Clemente was misquoted because he was rattled and confused by the TV reporter’s question.

Earlier, De la Paz also denied the claim made by HealthJustice, a group of lawyers advocating tobacco control, that Gonzales Batiller David Leabres Reyes & Associates, the law firm he works for—was representing Philip Morris.

But in an interview Thursday, he admitted that his law firm did some consultancy work for the tobacco company from 2001 to 2004.

“The information is based on what the people who were in the firm before me have told me,” De la Paz said.

He clarified, however, that the law firm never represented the company in any case.


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