Lawyer behind suit vs MMDA working for cigarette firm?
A group of lawyers supportive of the ban imposed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on smoking in public has questioned a colleague’s motives for going to court in a bid to halt the agency’s efforts.
“[Jesus] de la Paz said the petitioners were questioning the authority of MMDA to enforce Republic Act (RA) 9211 [which regulates the sale, use, packaging and advertisements of tobacco products]. Asked directly, [his clients] admitted that they were not even familiar with RA 9211,” Ipat Luna said in a statement e-mailed by HealthJustice, a nonprofit public health think-tank whose members are lawyers.
De la Paz is representing two security guards who have asked the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court to stop the MMDA from implementing a ban on smoking in public places.
The two guards were earlier fined P500 each by MMDA personnel after they were caught smoking on the sidewalk near Edsa in Quezon City.
“Who really stands to benefit from the petition? More to the point, who stands to lose?” Luna said.
HealthJustice claimed that one of the clients of De la Paz’s law firm—Gonzales Batiller David Leabres & Reyes—is Philip Morris Manufacturing Inc., a leading cigarette manufacturer, as listed on the company’s website.
“I am not aware that Philip Morris is on the web page. I would have to check myself,” De La Paz said when reached by the Inquirer for comment.
De la Paz earlier argued in court that RA 9211, or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, does not mention sidewalks and roads as part of the public places where smoking is prohibited.
Lawyer and law professor Teddy Te, however, argued: “Where is it written that you have the right to smoke in sidewalks, side streets and thoroughfares? What is the grave and irreparable injury to smokers when they cannot smoke in those areas?”
“What is constitutional is the government’s obligation to uphold the right to health of its citizens,” Te said.
“The national predicament stands: Hundreds of Filipinos die every single day because of both cigarette addiction and second-hand smoke. Let us not forget that public safety is the backbone of this smoke-free campaign,” Luna added.
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