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MMDA considers dropping case vs two smoking guards

/ 12:38 AM August 22, 2011

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is considering letting off the hook two security guards who sued the agency after they were fined P500 each in July for violating the ban on public smoking.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Tolentino said the suggestion was offered to him on Friday by the MMDA’s health and public safety office after one of the guards told a television reporter last week that he and his companion deliberately smoked because they wanted to get caught.

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The guard added that a tobacco firm offered them money to file the case against the MMDA. However, he later took back what he said and explained that he was just rattled and confused by the reporter’s questions.

“If what they claim is true, then they did not violate the smoking ban because they were paid to do it,” Tolentino said. “If we do not treat them as violators, then there’s no case.”

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The MMDA earlier asked Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 213 Judge Carlos Valenzuela to reconsider his order stopping the agency from implementing a ban on smoking in public places for 20 days.

The issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) was based on the petition filed by security guards Anthony Clemente and Vrianne

Lamson.

Both men were slapped with a P500 fine each by the MMDA’s environmental officers after they were caught smoking on a sidewalk in Cubao in

July.

The TRO took effect on Friday after the petitioners’ lawyers paid the P100,000 bond for the case set by the court.

Through their counsel Luis de la Paz, the guards questioned the MMDA’s “expanded implementation” of the smoking ban.

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According to De la Paz, Republic Act No. 9211, or the Tobacco Regulation Law, does not mention roads and sidewalks as public places where smoking is prohibited.

Meanwhile, Tolentino, who is also a lawyer, said that the MMDA legal office was still evaluating the merits of the recommendation made by the health and public safety office.

Basically, the recommendation was for the MMDA not to treat the two guards as offenders and violators which in effect will “cancel [their] violation because in the first place, no violation was made,” Tolentino explained.

A lawyers’ group advocating tobacco control earlier said that one of the clients of the law firm De la Paz works for—Gonzales Batiller David Leabres Reyes & Associates—was tobacco giant Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp., a claim denied by De la Paz.

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TAGS: legal issues, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Smoking
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