Are we doing our job to regulate vapes?

Highlights from the Senate inquiry on the unregulated sale of vapes that target the youth (February 10, 2023)
Led by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking

I. Opening statement

In today’s hearing, we’ll discuss the speech I delivered on February 6, 2023 calling for an investigation on the violation of the Vaporized Nicotine Regulation Act in relation to vape flavors and designs, which in particular are very attractive to the youth.

Joining us today is our Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Joel Villanueva, who even during the deliberations on the said measure, was very vocal about his concerns on the products that would be attractive to the youth, particularly the age, and the flavors.

Thank you, Majority Floor Leader, thank you for reiterating that provision of law to point out that there is clear violation [Section 12 of RA 1190, the Vape Law, which prohibits the sale of vapes that are packaged, labeled. presented, or marketed with flavor descriptors that unduly appeal to the youth]. Wala na siguro tayong kailangan pag-usapan, which is precisely why the Senate President, with your honor’s support, really pushed for the immediate adoption of that resolution, kasi wala na talagang dapat pag-usapan. Even if we were a court of law, we had the evidence.

But I’ll take off from where the Majority Floor Leader left off. Our honorable Majority Floor Leader read the provision of the law that very clearly considers a product as enticing to the youth when it uses fruits, desserts, or other descriptors which are known to be connected with children.

So as I was saying earlier, if this were a court of law, all you need to show is the evidence that there is such a product and it’s being sold, and therefore, we then prove that there is a violation of the law.

So I can now show some of these products. [Shows samples of vape products with fancy flavors] Na-alert ako nung sinabi ni [Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva]… parang he read my mind, but rest assured, everybody, we are not in cahoots. We just have the same concern. His honor mentioned dessert, right? And eksakto ang sample na andito na hawak ko, a Korean dessert, strawberry bingsu. So ito siya. And my staff told me that if you open it…it will already note the smell of it, which is very enticing.

Anyway, another example is watermelon cooler, so fruit. Hindi pa ba natin alam na prutas ito? Ayan, watermelon cooler. Kitang kita rin. And then for the accessories, hindi ko alam pero parang proud pa siya eh, yung tatak na “Made in the Philippines.” Para bang proudly made in the Philippines, which to me I am not proud about, but anyway it is what it is.

And then in terms of accessories…kung hindi pa ba attractive ito, ito ang accessories. Ito ang lalagyan. Meron siyang parang lanyard na pwede i-hang sa neck mo. and ang product covers niya are candy bars and a very well-known soft drink, di ba? So ayan. This is a sad state that we are in, colleagues. And the Majority Floor Leader looks like he is about to cry. Because this is the fate of our youth. Ito ang products in our market.

Just to put this on record because it was covered in my privilege speech…in 2012, we passed RA 10351, otherwise known as the Sin Tax Law, and this covered alcohol and cigarettes. And that is why in 2020, when I sponsored the new Sin Tax Reform Act, it now covered the new type of sin products, which is heated tobacco products and vapes… In 2020, Congress, the Senate in particular, had a debate, do we ban or do we not ban but we tax and regulate? And the decision was to tax and regulate. Thus, the Sin Tax Reform Act, because we would tax and regulate.

And that is the purpose of the hearing, to find out if we are actually doing our job of regulating. Fast forward, shortly after 2020, a new law was passed and this is the… Vape Law, RA 11900, which overturned three major provisions of the Sin Tax Reform Act. These 3 provisions are pegging the age at 21 years so that the youth really are protected beyond 18; FDA being the agency that would regulate these products; and third is limiting the flavors to menthol and tobacco flavor. I say that these 3 major provisions were overturned because in the Vape Law, the age changed from 21 to 18; jurisdiction to regulate was transferred to DTI; and there was a more permissive provision on flavors. So the focus of this hearing is really on the flavors.

And although I made it clear that the provision under the current law, which is the Vape Law, is more permissive, kasi dati, talagang ano lang, menthol and tobacco. So everything else is banned. And ngayon ang nangyari sa Vape Law, which I opposed, is they expanded the definition to include, basically allowed ang flavors with the exception of flavors that are attractive to the youth, and then may descriptors, like fruit flavors, cartoons, and other candies which obviously we would know are attractive to the youth. And now, ganun na nga ka-clear pa rin ang law, and we still have very, very clear violations.

There are now articles and studies, peer-reviewed studies that are saying that as many of the advocates have warned, be careful with claiming that these products are safer, because it may not be safer at all. It may even be worse. And there are now studies that are saying that there is more lung damage to the lungs of people who vape than cigarettes. And I’ll just cite those studies later on. And these are peer-reviewed studies, by the way. And there’s the alarm that has been sounded in the UK.

When I visited the UK specifically to study how they are approaching the handling of this novel product, which was vapes, they told me that they have, and this is just my own words, a slightly permissive take on it because they are not worried about the youth taking it up.. Because based on their data, they have been successful in stopping the youth from smoking. Therefore, the chances daw na mag-shift sa vapes yung naninigarilyong bata is very low kasi nga they have already succeeded in making smoking not attractive to the youth.

And the reason for this is because they have adopted many of the recommendations of the advocacy groups on stopping smoking. This includes no point of purchase display. So if you go into a retail store in London, which I did, I wanted to try to see how the cigarettes look and ecigs, walang point of purchase displayed doon. So nakakalimutan ko. So ganun ka-effective yun. You will not think of buying cigarettes kasi nakatago talaga. Only if you ask will it be shown to you.

And then, if I am not mistaken, they also have plain packaging, tama ba? Dr Yul is confirming. They have plain packaging. So balewala yung mga subtle and not subtle advertising ng iba’t ibang tobacco companies kasi nga plain packaging din lang naman. And so on and so forth, including of course yung specific educational campaign na ginawa nila for more than a decade. So successful sila.

Pero ngayon…three and a half years since I was there… now, I am reading reports that the UK is alarmed by the number of young people who have been hospitalized because of vaping. So hindi lang nagve-vape, naho-hospitalize pa. So I am sad for them because mali pala ang assumption nila na hindi magiging attractive sa bata kasi this industry works in a very devious way, and this is how they work.

Our hearing will be immortalized, thanks to Youtube and our media friends who cover it. And I want this to be something that people, anyone of any age, well of mature age can understand. Even teenagers. I want them to be able to understand this. So I always want to give a background and context to what we are discussing.


[DTI mentions violations of the vape Law that the agency has monitored; Sen Villanueva interjects]

Thank you, Majority Floor Leader. Actually, my questions are also along that line. Maybe we will get further clarity, and not confusion, when we ask these kinds of questions and then also listen to FDA kasi your last statement na, are our systems working, doon na lang tayo, di ba? Andaming paliwanag, which Asec [Ann Claire Cabochan, of DTI] is simply just telling us what they put in the rules and in the law, some of those things are not in the law. Rules na lang yun. Pero is it adding to bureaucracy?

Because for me, as a lawyer, I understand the concept of due process. But there is also the concept of plain danger. And law enforcements have the right to step in and protect people from danger. So I want to be able to validate these practices that we have with an eye towards either accepting it, that it’s going to be a slow process or recognizing that there is room for change if we really want to be able to protect our youth.

Kasi kapag sinabi mong binebenta sa harap ng schools, and that is one of the examples that Asec. gave. Are you telling me na pababayaan nating binebenta yan sa harap ng schools? Magbibigay pa tayo ng letter ng show cause, may x number of days, babalikan pa tayo, eh nakikita mo nang binebenta sa harap ng schools. Nakikita mo namang Korean dessert. May pinagkaiba pa ba yung Korean, American, Filipino dessert?..Watermelon cooler. May picture na ng watermelon, may pangalan pa ng watermelon. Ano pa ba yun? Atty Porciúncula? [Atty. Marimel Porciuncula, director of the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau of DTI] You’re from the DTI right? So are you prepared to address the concern raised by the Majority Floor Leader na, are our systems working? It might be working because you are telling me we are following the letter of the rules and the law. Pero patawarin. Yang teenager na yan o 12 years old na yan na in-attract nila, baka lolo na, by that time. Finollow nga nila yung letter of the rules and letter of the laws, but we created too many processes that we are not able to save the youth. So that’s my question, that’s our question.

There you go. Have you confiscated, Asec? Have you confiscated? Then why not? Why not? Ni-report niyo sa amin, and I took note of it, you have 16 show-cause orders. May I know if these 16 include yung selling near the schools? Kasi yun yun, yung in-explain mo that these are the types of violations, I am not sure if you meant these are the violations defined by law or violations that were actually seen by your law enforcements. They have been seen. So may violations na selling near the school, may violations na may descriptors, katulad niyang watermelon… tapos selling without graphic health warning… point of sale, what about point of sale?


The required statements at point of sale na they cannot sell to minors, etc. So you found it, so paano, picture-taking tapos submission? Tapos show-cause? Mismong lawyer niyo ang nagsasabing you have the power to confiscate. Parang kulang naman sa briefing ang law enforcement niyo.


For the record, pinunas-punasan na ni MFL ang mukha niya. Kung ginawa ko yun tanggal na lahat ng makeup ko, okay? That is a sign. I have to put that on record because that is a sign of frustration. Wala na kaming magawa dahil kami naman ay disenteng senador, hindi kami nagmumura dito, nagpipilit kaming hindi magtaas ng boses. So hanggang ganyan na lang kami, nagpipigil na lang kami ng mukha namin. My God. Lord. Sorry, my mom gets mad at me if she hears me… “My God.” Because do not call the name of the Lord in vain. But I am not calling the Lord’s name in vain. I am actually calling out to the Lord for guidance because hindi ko na alam yung gagawin ko. If you are telling me, which you seem to be about to tell me, Asec. Ann… that your administrative order stated blah, blah, blah. Eh kayo ang nagsulat noon eh. Hindi naman ganun ang batas na ginawa namin. Masama na nga ang batas na ginawa namin, lalong pinasama pa ng admin order na nilagyan ng sangkatutak na requirements. Samantalang your lawyer is telling us that you have the right to confiscate.

[Sen Villanueva]

Thank you. So that’s very clear. Ang kagandahan naman ng batas na ito, which I already considered watered down, we were still able to make sufficient interventions that clearly define what are violations. Wala tayong… hindi vague yun. We said flavors named as desserts, as fruits, that are attractive to kids. And these are what we consider attractive to kids kasi baka subject pa to discussion what are attractive to kids, kaya sinabi natin doon, cartoons, desserts… fruits. Yun na nga. Violation na nga siya. Violation na talaga siya.

Anyway, like I said, I will give Atty Porciuncula of DTI and Asec. Cabochan an opportunity to talk… But in the meantime, before I give the floor to FDA, I want to educate all of us, okay? Let’s all be educated. Even I continue to be educated, I need to research, I need to ask my team, what is the latest jurisprudence.

On the plain view doctrine, which is a case in 2019, Argana vs. People, this is the doctrine: law enforcement officers in search of evidence when he is in a position from which he can view a particular area… oh di syempre kung tindahan yan at andoon ka naman nakapasok, it’s a public store, lahat naman pwedeng pumasok, so siya ay nasa isang posisyon para ma-view niya, makita niya kung ano ang binebenta doon… Number two, discovery of the evidence in plain view, is inadvertent, hindi nangkalkal, hindi naman pumasok sa bodega nila kung ano mang lugar, mag-open ng drawers, ng cabinet; it’s in plain view, pagtingin mo andoon; and third, it is immediately apparent that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband, or otherwise, subject to… seizure, hindi pa ba crime yun? Hindi pa ba contraband yun or subject to seizure? Ano pa ba?

Now if these don’t happen to be in plain view then I understand, di ba? I don’t know, there are products that are really not in plain view, you have to enter, you have to open up. Eh plain view nga. So allow me to educate all of us, this is the plain view doctrine. Your rules do not have the power of law if there is a law and jurisprudence that is very clear. Balewala ang rules niyo.

I will move to FDA and think about what you are saying to me because I am not happy with what I am hearing from DTI…


Can I remind all the secretaries and heads of agencies that if you send your subordinate, it is usually acceptable but common courtesy, let my office know so that if I have a question, if I’d like to say hello to you, if I’d like to direct my question to you, you can let me know… Ang DG ng FDA hindi man lang nag-abalang magsabi sa akin na hindi siya makakapunta. Nagtanong pa ako off the record earlier hindi niyo rin alam kung bakit wala siya. Ngayon niyo lang nalaman dahil sinabi kong alamin niyo… Hindi kasalanan ng subordinates yun, kasalanan ng principal yun.


Yung cosmetics ire-register sa inyo right? And from my understanding because I was a practitioner in FDA, nandyan ako madalas baka grade school pa lang kayo noon. That was my first job, one of my first tasks in the law office that I worked with, to assist our clients in getting their products registered so I am quite familiar with the process. May checklist yun di ba? And over the years, we have institutionalized and internationalized our practice such that when you get a report that’s validated already in another FDA, particularly syempre kung yung FDA na kinikilala ng maayos, let’s say US product, that is just basically documentary na lang ang process nun, right? You will not conduct your testing, let the records show that Ms Cabrido [Division chief, Ofelyn Cabrido of the Center for Cosmetics and Household Urban Hazardous Substances Regulation and Research of FDA] is nodding her head… So basta ma-submit nila lahat yun, wala na kayong testing na gagawin because you take at face value na ang ibang FDA that had ruled upon this did their job. Correct?


Sabi mo nga you are governed by the ASEAN cosmetic directive…It’s not that they are not being regulated, but because of that agreement, you recognize that they have gone through the process in another country, that’s why notification, correct? So there is still a process that gives you the confidence na dumaan na sa proseso ito. So if it’s a contact lens, that go in the eyes; a moisturizer, facial cream that go on the face; deodorant that goes under a person’s arm, you are notified, correct?

So normally, with a product, and I am going now to the vapes, if you will recall the position that this representation has taken, same with the MFL, a product as defined by the FDA Law should be registered with the FDA if it is harmful and it could potentially cause, or have an effect on one’s health. It has a claim that it has a good effect? Therefore, register it. It doesn’t have any claims but from your own knowledge, from the wealth of knowledge that we have, it will be exposed to our body parts, then it has a health effect and therefore must go through some kind of process within the FDA, correct?

So ang nangyari dito sa vapes na ini-inhale… sinisinghot o nilalanghap… yun nga ang pinaglalaban natin na kaya nga sa Sin Tax Law, sinabi natin na FDA will regulate, walang issue, done. Tapos dito sa bagong batas na ito, binaliktad, sinabi na DTI… Ibalik natin ang tanong, so paano niyo nache-check yun na ang nilalanghap nila, paano niyo nache-check yun? Because I will reiterate, and sinabi rin ito ni MFL when I delivered my speech, in the US FDA, more than 55,000 flavors were rejected kasi… hindi nga daw pumapasa sa standard… Hindi yan pumasa sa FDA, and here we are, our FDA has no authority to look into it based on the law, this bulok na law na napasa, it’s with DTI… Let’s ask them how they are checking on that…

So just to be clear, yung sa 55,000 flavors that were rejected by the US FDA, the marketing application for these 55,000 flavors were rejected for failure to provide evidence that they appropriately protect public health. Hindi sila na-reject dahil lang hindi sila nakakasakit, but they appropriately do not protect public health. Bagsak sila doon. So I will ask DTI later on… how they are able to do that because from what I know, kayo ang may competence to do that. And you have the confidence to do that? May I hear the answer for that?


I am tempted to mention all the other things that we are working on together, which sadly negates, takes away from the time that we have to spend on problems like this because we are working nga towards more protection of health and yet here we are needing to take valuable time, the time of the honorable Usec, the time of DOH, FDA, the time actually also of DTI na marami ring pino-problema sa ibang aspect ng trade and industry, because certain sectors cannot even self-regulate and cannot even do their part in protecting the youth. Talaga namang tinarget pa ang youth. I don’t think there is any question there.

[Sen Villanueva; DOH]

I will give the floor to Dr Yul Dorotheo, he is the Executive Director of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. We have been working together for more than a decade already. Talagang expert. He can recite the facts to us in his sleep about nicotine addiction and the like… and we have our youth representatives pa. Sen. Alan [Cayetano] is also online…

I wanted to take off very quickly from what Dr. Beverly Ho [DOH Undersecretary] said. She was describing in layman’s terms what is an addiction. Sen Joel and I both have young kids. My son is 12, around the same age as your two kids din. Hindi nagkakalayo. I was telling my son about my latest privilege speech on vapes. I was just trying to see kung naaalala niya ang discussion ko with him in the past years. Kasi nag-umpisa yan he was 8-9. And he is now 12… I was just curious kung nagegets niya ang point ko. So this was over dinner with my two older daughters and my 12 y/o son. And I said this was my speech, about vapes which is very dangerous, it’s bad for you and it becomes addictive. And I said do you know about it and do you have friends who are doing this? Do you know it’s bad for you? And my son’s answer was this: Mom, do you think I am dumb? And I was like, no I don’t think you are dumb, precisely why I was asking you if you understand the topic because you are old enough to understand. Then he repeated, do you think I’m dumb? And I said no. And he said, why do you have to ask me that? And then I said, you know what it’s this golden age where they listen to their parents pa. Na kung sinabi kong bad yan for him, bad yan… But we do know from history, from time immemorial… that at some point, you start listening to what your friends are saying, you start getting more attracted to what is out there, what is attractive to you, and isn’t that precisely the nature of what addiction can be? The problems it can give us? Kasi in your head, you know that it’s bad. You know it’s not good for you. Alam mo na, narinig mo na sa parents, teachers, doctor. Bakit mo pa ginawa? Peer pressure and eventually, you get addicted.

[Dr Yul Dorotheo]

For the record, Sen. Jinggoy [Estrada] also mentioned that he wanted to make sure that the graphic health warning is also covered. We covered that in the law and therefore, DTI should cover that in everything, in all the violations that are being monitored.

[Dr Dorotheo]

In the same way that DTI laid out to us the process that they go through, which made me realize na wow, ang haba ng prosesong yan, hindi man lang kayo nagko-confiscate. And kayo, I wanted to ask you for examples because I know for a fact na nagko-confiscate kayo kapag mga plain view din… And let the record show that the 3 representatives of FDA are all nodding their head… Ngayon ewan ko sa inyo DTI kung bakit hindi kayo nakakapag-confiscate…

[Dr Dorotheo]

Ewan ko pero ang proponents ng batas na ito ginawa nila lahat na DTI, so paano kapag tumawag sa inyo? Sasaklolohin niyo ang namamatay na? Binigay nila sa inyo lahat. Jurisdiction din sa inyo rin. So ewan ko kapag may tumawag, tell me later on how you intend to handle that. Because there are reported cases, as I’ve said, and I will read on record later on. Sa UK pa lang nagaalala sila sa dami ng youth na naoospital…

[AER; Youth for Sin Tax, PH College of Chest Physicians]

I’ll take off from what you said. I think it was in the form of a question to Usec. Beverly Ho on the data available. And I am sure it’s DOH who can put into action this concern that we both have. How do we disseminate this to all levels of healthcare? For us to get the data, ang kwinento niyong case clearly, nakarating siya sa specialist who was able to document that properly and diagnose it properly. But how many cases like this are diagnosed in the barangay health center, in a primary healthcare center? So I’d like to know from DOH what protocols do we have in place. Just like disease reporting, it just so happens that my team and I are also handling the drafting of the bill on the CDC… So I know the language that is contained in that bill, on the reporting of the diseases, on the cascading of information. But I’d like to know na until the CDC is in place, kasama ba itong pagmo-monitor ng EVALI ailment… or is it something we still have to do?


So paano? In FDA, it’s embedded in their system that when you register, the registration certification that they give also has responsibilities on the side of recipients, and that includes reporting of adverse effects. May ganyan kayo?

So for the record, everyone, the entire Philippine population, kung ang jurisdiction ba ay naiwan sa FDA, wala na tayong time na we are still putting together, crafting the guidelines, kasi may guidelines na sila, andoon na yun. They’ve been doing it ever since we had an FDA, which by the way was called BFAD in my time, and it was also during my time in 2009 when we changed BFAD’s name to FDA, not just a change of name, but also strengthening of the functions of FDA. So for the record, all of this… we would not have had to go to this process of, we’re still waiting, we’re still doing it, because it would have been automatic with FDA because it is really what they do, sadly, inako ng DTI because of the law passed by Congress, which I objected to, gave the jurisdiction to you…


Kailan tayo magkaka-registration? In the meantime, wala tayong registration? For the record din, the Sin Tax Law that would have come into effect, minadali ng mga pro-vaper and senators and members of Congress, minadali nila yun kasi magka-come into effect na ang Sin Tax Law that would have required registration, and that’s why they were in a hurry to pass this other law that would remove the jurisdiction para hindi pa rin sila nag-register and hindi pa rin sila nag-comply. So ganyan ang lobby ng mga sin products dito sa Pilipinas. Ganyan kaawa-awa ang sitwasyon natin. Anyway…

For the record… nagkaroon ng transitory period na rin sa Sin Tax… They had 18 months na. Tapos minadali itong bagong law, kasi yung 18 months kulang pa sa kanila. Gusto pa nilang madagdagan. Ganyan talaga ang industry na ayaw magpa-regulate. Just letting you know. I know you are just trying to implement it. But I need the Filipino people to know that this is how thess industries who do not want to be regulated, who do not care if people will die, if young people get addicted, they don’t care and they just want to go on and on unregulated, pretending that they want to be regulated but they don’t.


But what is your business when you don’t know… To my knowledge, the mandate of DTI has not changed. You have nothing to do and you have no expertise in health. So how in the world are you going about changing, modifying, or creating that standard? Saan ang doktor? May dala ba kayong doktor? Eh paano? So how are you creating these standards? Saan niyo hinuhugot yun?

And their expertise is on products that are harmful to health, particularly lung health? And brain health?


Sige give me the name of the people in the technical committee, their names, profile, and any expertise that they have. Because clearly, I think we have enough information, you can also do your own research naman, Asec. This is a product that can kill, that can create a generation of addicts. And I would think it is incumbent upon you, coming here to my Senate hearing, to ensure that what you are reporting to me in your own conscience also, is acceptable.

So I am so confused how in your human brain, kaya niyo to assure us that you are here to protect Filipino health, when your mandate and your name itself is the Department of Trade and Industry. It’s not about you personally. It is just about my ongoing confusing with this whole situation. Kayo estudyante, nung estudyante ako, ang assignment natin, what is DOH? Dept. of Health, what does it do? What is DTI, trade and industry? What does it do? Saan nakasulat doon na involved and obligasyon nila to protect health? And if I look at the roster, can you tell me now na andyan na ang expertise niyo sa health? Nagkaroon ba ever since we created this law?


But if they don’t say anything, they don’t claim any risk reduction, they don’t claim any health benefit, pero ito na naga-attract na ng youth. The President from the PH College of Chest Physicians says there are already reported cases of EVALI [E-cigarette or Vaping use-Associated Lung Injury]. And you already said for the record, you do not have the health expertise. So paano? How would you register? You’re registering them on what basis? The basis that they are a P5-B company, a P5-M company? What is the basis? And katulad ng binigay nilang example ng cosmetics, they have a notification from another country that tells them na dumaan ito sa process. May ganoon? That’s why I wanted to know and in the next hearing or TWG kindly present these people from your Bureau of Standards, that you are telling me are the ones who determine what are the standards that you are now following. Because I don’t know if your Bureau of Standards has any health expertise to determine, like I told you, 55,000 flavors in the US were rejected by the FDA. Tell me how you will do that. And while you are waiting to put together all your rules and the time you need to put together your processing, how many will die, how many will get addicted? But let the records show that you already said that you do not have the health expertise. I will repeat. What is the DTI mandate from the time I have started questioning DTI. This is what I know it to be. Correct me if I am wrong: responsible for realizing the country’s goal of globally competitive and innovative industry and services sector that contribute to inclusive growth and employment generation. Saan diyan ang health? Wala di ba? That’s why you answered the way you answered. So I am sorry if I seem very frustrated. But I am very frustrated.

I thank you for being participative and candid with your responses. My frustration is not directed at you personally. It’s just directed at this terrible situation that we find ourselves in. Pretty much, para mo na rin sinabi na the law was created, binigay sa inyo, wala ka namang choice kundi gampanan ang sinabi ng batas na gampanan niyo. Pero wala nga kayong expertise in that field. And for such a dangerous product, which can cause immediate illnesses in young and older people, nakakagulat lang that it is now in your hands.

I would also like to point out to anyone… I just want to emphasize that in a recent report… from a news article, Business World, this was dated not even a year ago, three months ago, October 24, Business World reports: DTI seizes uncertified products in Pampanga and Paranaque City. So I went through it quickly and these products are construction materials and automotive vehicles, including tires… Nakakatuwa pero nakakagulat na ang construction materials and tires for vehicles, gulong, pwede ma-confiscate, pero ang produkto na makakamatay ng bata, hindi niyo kino-confiscate. And I know this is probably not in your jurisdiction, there is another agency that handles. CDs and DVDs, kino-confiscate. Pero itong mga ecigs na clearly violating the law, I don’t think there is anyone here, and kindly raise your hand if you object, I think everyone here agrees. The law is very clear. E-cigarettes and vapes that are targeting young people… particularly those that have fruits, cartoons, desserts, candies, are prohibited… Tapos yung DVDs, gulong ng kotse pwede ma-confiscate. Ito, hindi kino-confiscate. So I think that’s very clear. Earlier, I read in the record, the latest Supreme Court jurisprudence on the plain view doctrine. So I hope you take this well. May I request that you work with DILG. isang kalabit lang naman yan sa mga mayor, sabihin niyo sa mga mayor na before you have another epidemic on hand, of addicted young people, ano ba naman yung you ask the mayors to ask their health officers, to ask whoever to go around, even the parent-teachers association to check what stores that are within 100 meters… kung nagbebenta nun, di bawal. Sinabi niyo you found, paano paisa-isa tayo? So talk to DILG… Isama niyo na yan sa request niyo. Isang tingin lang naman nila they will know that there are violations. I can tell you for a fact that in Taguig City, I can ask their mayor, and so many other friends all over the [country] na tingnan niyo nga ito, and right away, they will act. Pwede nila i-revoke ang business permit because they are selling products that are illegal. Correct? Am I wrong? Andali naman gawin pero yun nga, I know you have a lot of work but this is as important, if not more important than other products. Because this will create an epidemic of addicted and probably lung damaged children. Okay? So let me know in the next hearing what you have done about it because I am just really very concerned. Hay nako. Anyway…

[Dr Dorotheo]

In the UK, I was there when they informed me that they are not really worried about the youth and here we are 3-4 years after we had that conversation… I am reading the report that they are now alarmed with the number of youth that are addicted and have actually been hospitalized due to EVALI.

[Dr Dorotheo]

This is not the end, obviously, this is just the beginning for the 19th Congress. We just hope to be able to work with everyone, all the concerned sectors, including DTI, of course, to come up with suggestions and possible amendments to the law that will be truly reflective of the protective measures that we want to see, not just for the youth but for the entire Filipino people.

This hearing will be suspended. We will digest all the materials that we have. We have requested further materials from DTI… We probably will have another hearing or a TWG. Thank you everyone for taking the time to be with us this afternoon. Salamat and be safe for the rest of the day and the week. Happy Valentines. #

Expressing her frustration over the proliferation of vape products and flavors that target the youth, Senator Pia S. Cayetano said that this current situation resulted from the removal of three key provisions in the Sin Tax Law by the Vape Law, including: lowering the age of access to vapes from 21 to 18; transferring regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade Industry (DTI); and easing the restrictions on allowed vape flavors. Cayetano also called to task the DTI for not confiscating flavored vapes, and those sold near schools, even if these clearly violate the watered down provisions of the Vape Law.


We are proud of you, Margie!

Pia lauds world-class skateboarder Margielyn Didal: “she represents the country with pride wherever she goes”
Transcript of manifestation by Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Madame President, I just want to include in our acknowledgement the fact that Margie decided at a very young age to take on a sport that was very new. She did not even have an official coach at the time that she took up skateboarding, at what age? At 12, and against the wishes of her parents, [as] she was spending a lot of time on her skateboard, performing stunts.

It took a while. It was very difficult for her to continue her passion because like many athletes, even their own families worry for their future, worry for their safety when they embark on this, especially with skateboarding, which is very new, and can be very dangerous. In fact, she’s here still recovering from an injury. Is it correct that you now have a titanium piece in your left ankle? Forever na ba yun doon? Okay. Wala naman daw forever, yung titanium niya. But I am saying that these are the risks that accompany the sport that she has chosen and she has represented the country many times, and I want to say, represented the country very well.

This young girl has a following internationally. Kapag naabutan niyo ang mga live niya, yung mga Instagram Live niya, parang within one minute, she has hundreds of comments from her fans all over the world. And she represents us well with pride wherever she goes, not just with her sport, but with her demeanor, carrying the qualities of a Filipino na magaling pero humble, laging nakangiti, even when she did not make it to the podium in the Olympics, she was cheering for her rivals.

And so, we are very proud to have Margielyn Didal with us. She is an honor to all Filipinos. She brings us honor, and her spirit as a young athlete shines in everything that she does. She is a Cebuana. Yun nga, if you look at the photos on her social media pages, talagang makikita mo na home-grown. Kung ano lang ang meron doon, tinalon-talon niya, may barkada lang siya doon and then obviously, from the start, she started to excel and make her own path. And now, she is our shining star in the field of skateboarding, competing all over the world. And her next venture is in LA? Tama ba, LA? She’ll be LA-bound soon, even while she’s still recovering, going through therapy, she’ll already go there to compete.

So this girl embodies the kind of discipline that I always speak of, the kind of discipline that I say we can find in athletes, the kind of pride in the country that our athletes, especially those given the chance to compete for the country, carry with them in their hearts. So we are proud of you, Margie. And keep up the good work.

Thank you, Madame President. #

World-class skateboarder Margielyn Didal represents the country with pride wherever she goes, carrying the qualities of the Filipino who excels but remains humble. “Laging nakangiti, even when she did not make it to the podium in the Olympics, she was cheering for her rivals,” the senator recalled.
“We are very proud to have Margielyn Didal with us,” Senator Pia Cayetano told senators in plenary. “She is an honor to all Filipinos. She brings us honor, and her spirit as a young athlete shines in everything that she does. She is a Cebuana.”

Pia slams rampant selling of vapes targeting the youth

Pia raises alarm on the unregulated selling of vape flavors and packaging designs that appeal to the youth market

Privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal sponsor, RA No. 11467, Sin Tax Law of 2020
Principal co-sponsor, RA 10351, Sin Tax Law of 2012

Mr President, I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege. My speech is about vape flavors and designs, which are attracting our youth, which are very attractive to our youth.

Just a quick background, your honor, on December 12, barely a month ago, last year, we marked the 10th year anniversary of the passage of the Sin Tax Law, which is Republic Act 10351. I was there to celebrate this landmark bill, along with members… well former officers, former secretaries of the Department of Health, health advocates, and even youth leaders who have worked for the passage of the Sin Tax Law.

If you would recall, Mr President, this Senate has taken a strong position on taxing products that are harmful for health, particularly products that are targeted at the youth. And we used sin tax, we used the increased prices of sin products to prevent access. So maraming kwento, your honor, and we have the data now to show that with the sin tax that we have imposed over the 10 years, nabawasan ang naninigarilyo. So that is good news for us, Mr. President. I wanted to report that because this is part of our oversight function. We have been effective in lowering the number of people who smoke cigarettes.

But I go now, Mr President, to a new product, a novel product, which is the vapes and the e-cigarettes, and in that photo that was just being flashed, it shows me holding a sample of a vape product. Our colleagues are familiar with the position I’ve taken from the very start that the e-cigs regulation law that we passed repealed the very important provisions in the Sin Tax Law, which would have ensured or further prevented the youth from being exposed to the vice of vaping. Under the Sin Tax Law, the provisions that I am referring to are the jurisdiction of the FDA, number two, the age of 21 na binabaan sa 18 under the e-cigarettes regulation law, and third are the flavors.

So this speech, your honor, is about the flavors.

We had lengthy discussions, debates, and I think many, if not all of the senators, will agree that, even if you are a non-smoker, obviously, we are human beings. Kapag maganda sa mata, we are attracted. Kung maganda sa pandinig natin, we are attracted. And when it is something that is flavorful, we are attracted.

So in the Sin Tax Law, the provision of law was that only tobacco and plain menthol are allowed. Under the e-cigarette regulation law, this was amended. Tinanggal itong very clear provision na ito and the provision that was passed is this, I will read it into the record [reads provision]:

“The sale of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and novel tobacco products that are packaged, labeled, presented, or marketed with flavor descriptors that are proven to unduly appeal particularly to minors shall be prohibited.  A flavor descriptor is presumed to unduly appeal to minors if it includes a reference to a fruit, candy brand, dessert, or cartoon character.” [Section 12 (j), RA 11900, the Vape Law]

So I will repeat, kung ako ho sana ang nasunod, we should have retained the Sin Tax provision that simply said no flavors are allowed, except yung regular flavor na tobacco and menthol.

So ngayon in this Section 12, it says that we are regulating it. Bawal ang flavors that are appealing to the youth. And they presumed that flavors are unduly appealing to the youth if there’s a reference to fruit, candy brand, dessert, or cartoon character.

I direct the attention of the body to my next slide. These are the flavors now. Hindi ba direct violation yan? Ano yan, melon? Hindi ba prutas yun? Ano pa ba yun, Mr President, kung hindi prutas? What are these others? It’s a freaking skateboard. Sino ba nagse-skateboard na may edad? There are a few actually. But predominantly, skateboarders are young people.

The colors are bright. Orange, purple, green. May picture ng melon, blueberry. And may I ask the Majority Floor Leader to help me out? I don’t know, lemon yung nasa dilaw? Tama ba? Mango? But it’s still a fruit. Your honor, this is very clear. I read the provision of law. A flavor descriptor is presumed to unduly appeal to minors if it includes a reference to a fruit. Hindi ho ba reference to a fruit ito? Toha, toha [brand name] ba yan? Okay.

So, Mr President, under the e-cig law which I did not vote for pero I tried to strengthen it na rin kasi I knew ito na yun, my dear colleagues, dito tayo dadating. So against my objection, it is the DTI that has jurisdiction. So I will also inform our Secretary, but I assume that my speech will be delivered to the proper entities, because ito na. It’s a direct violation. What are we doing about it?

Next slide. Look at this, dear colleagues. Freaking Hello Kitty. Alam pa ni Majority Floor Leader. My Melody… Wow alam na alam. Di ba? So, Mr President, it is so, so so… Pokemon.

So this is what we’re confronted with. We were talking about it in last week’s hearing, our dear colleague, Sen. JV [Ejercito] had a hearing on PhilHealth where we were discussing what rates do we have to impose to ensure that PhilHealth can deliver financial support to our health institutions. On the one hand, nagpapakahirap tayo supporting our health workers, and on the other hand, okay lang sa atin na may ganito. Sinabi ko na po. Ito talaga mangyayari sa atin: M&M’s, Skittles, those are the packaging materials of the products that are out there, your honor.

[SP Zubiri interjects, says the Senate will adopt a resolution imploring DTI to enforce the law.]

Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate the very proactive response from the Senate. Anyway, your honor, I don’t know if I have more photos. But I’d like to put this on record now. Currently, we have an estimated 2.7 million Filipinos who are using e-cigarettes or vaping devices. A few months ago, I got wind of the fact that there is now such a thing as disposable vapes, which will make it also very cheap to the youth and to Filipinos. There is also more and more research coming out showing the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and vapes. And there is even one report that I read that very distinctly said that it even appears to be more harmful, more damaging to the lungs than cigarette smoking.

So that’s all I’ve been trying to say from the very start. This is a new product, hinay-hinay lang sa pag-eendorse. Yun lang naman ang ayaw ko mangyari. We treat this product as the savior when there is no evidence yet that it is safer for the youth and even for senior citizens. Again, I cannot control the behavior of adults, but it is still our job when we legislate that we don’t allow these products to be marketed indiscriminately to make it appear as if it is safer. And now, we can see evidence that they are really targeting the youth.

Why do they target the youth? Because that is their future market. The minute you hook a young person, kliyente mo na yan for the next 20, 30, or 40 years. That’s why they are targeting it this way, Mr President.

So, in 2020 also, we have already recorded 2,807 cases of e-cigarette or vaping use associated lung injury, otherwise known as EVALI. But this is not in the Philippines per se, this is in I’m not sure if this is US or worldwide because this is Johns Hopkins.

But the point is, documented na rin. There is already a name to this disease. E-cigarettes or vaping use associated lung injury, otherwise known as EVALI. So that is now an ailment that is now being monitored carefully.

So your honors, I conclude. I thank my colleagues, I thank the Senate President for the immediate response. Hindi pa tapos ang speech ko, may action na maraming salamat po, Mr President.

As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it is our responsibility to track our progress on these 17 goals. Goal No. 3 is Good Health, ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.

So we cannot close our eyes to the fact that this product, which we have legalized, matagal na nating na-legalize because we did not prohibit it, and yet we passed legislation, that weakened legislation, is now out there. So I will continue to bring this to the body’s attention so that we can do our little part in ensuring that it does not do further damage to our youth and to the Filipino people.

Thank you very much, Mr President. #


Pia hails Carlos Yulo

Caloy embodies discipline, inspires nationalism among the youth

Co-sponsorship speech of Senator Pia Cayetano on the resolution commending world-class gymnast Carlos ‘Caloy’ Yulo   

Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to start this short speech of mine, a show of support for Carlos Yulo, with how I got inspired by gymnastics.

I was a 15-year-old varsity volleyball player in UP, that was 1981, and the Southeast Asian Games was held in the Philippines. And the gymnastics competition was in the gym, in the UP gym, where I was training. And they performed there, and the star of the show was no other than our own Bea Lucero. And so, before that, I’d just see her on TV. But to see this person, this gymnast, I think she was 11 years old at that time, performing before our eyes, was a sight to behold.

Fast forward, we now have Carlos Yulo. And along with him here today, Mr President, are his teammates, Juancho Miguel Besana, tayo ka, and Justin Ace De Leon, and of course, the woman behind these athletes, Gymnastics Association Philippines President, Cynthia Carreon.

It’s on record, hindi ko na uulit-ulitin pa ang accomplishments mo, Carlos. You are an inspiration to everyone, not just gymnastics, but athletes, young people, legislators like us.

But what I’d like to point out, your honor, is yung timing din ng pagpunta dito ni Carlos. And at the time that we are debating this, we, everyone who spoke, refer to the ‘discipline’ that he brings to the table. The discipline that he has to have every day. I asked him, how many hours a day ang training? Dear colleagues, it’s 5-6 hours a day. Take that in, 5-6 hours a day. And Carlos trains in Japan, away from his family and loved ones. The last time I checked sa social media, may loved one talaga si Carlos na mahal niya sa puso niya, girlfriend niya sa madaling salita. And he has to be away from her also for this training. This is the kind of discipline that he brings, the kind of discipline that the Senate President knows, because the Senate President has also been a national athlete competing at the highest level.

And I say this at the time that we are discussing the ROTC bill, because discipline can come in many disciplines, in many ways. And when we honor these athletes, it is proof to all of us that sports breeds the kind of Filipinos that we want, the kind of Filipinos that we cheer for, the kind of Filipinos that dedicate their life. Hindi pa ba yan yun? Dedicating his life to his passion, to bring pride to the Philippines.

So on that note, Carlos, maraming salamat. Pati sa teammates mo, ipagpatuloy ng mga Filipino athletes ang ginagawa nila because we are so proud. We stop what we do to watch these athletes in what they do best because it brings all of us pride.

Maraming salamat, Mr. President.

Relating her speech commending world gymnastics champion Carlos ‘Caloy’ Yulo to ongoing debates on the mandatory ROTC bill, Senator Pia S. Cayetano said Caloy embodies youthful discipline and inspires nationalism among Filipinos.

There are many ways of serving the country

Highlights of interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano on the mandatory ROTC bill
Politics as Usual with Pia Hontiveros
CNN Philippines (February 1, 2023)

Pia Hontiveros (PH): You have no problem with ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) as long as it is not mandatory? Or you don’t want it completely?

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): As it stands, we have a law that includes ROTC. Have there been problems and issues on that? I have an open mind to hear. I am against it becoming mandatory. As to whether, as it is, it is doing its job, it is doing what it’s intended to be, I have an open mind. I’d like to hear. But I am against it becoming mandatory.

PH: There are bills in the Senate that are for mandatory ROTC..

SPSC: Yes, you are right, the bills that are currently being taken up in the Senate are for the return of mandatory ROTC. And my position is after reviewing all the bills and also hearing the statements of all the senators and resource persons who attended, basically I can summarize their position as follows: they want a mandatory ROTC to instill discipline, to instill or promote patriotism and unity, basically, and number two, to have a reserve corps that will be able to serve the country in its needs in case of an invasion.

As to the first objective, instill discipline. I’ll just point us to the last Southeast Asian Games which we hosted and we were the overall champions. I’ll point to the Olympics where a lot of our Filipino athletes came home with medals, including Hidylyn Diaz. Were we not most united? Were we not most patriotic and proud to be a Filipino when we saw and cheered for these athletes? So clearly, sports instills patriotism, and obviously, those athletes wouldn’t be where they are today if not for discipline. And I can say the same for the arts, and for music, right? So I don’t think ROTC has a monopoly in terms of being able to instill discipline.

And as to the second objective, to create that corps that will defend the country, what are we fighting against? What are the security threats that we face? Because again, when I read the bill, it felt like I was transported a hundred years ago., where Filipinos were fighting with bow and arrows, maybe later on, rifles, to literally defend our nation. Is that the same threat that we have? It could be. I am not saying walang threat na ganun.

But aren’t our threats now chemical warfare, cyber attacks, food security? Sibuyas nga lang wala na tayong supply. Itlog nga lang, which is a big source of protein, people would be starving without food. Water security, that is major because no one in this world can live without water. These are serious ‘security threats.’

And I humbly submit, I may not have the military training as our esteemed guests in our hearings, but I was a scholar of the US Defense in the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. And when I went there, our topics were all about soft security. Sinabi ko nga, food security, water, the effects of climate change, disaster risk. So if we now have warm bodies, and I am referring to the college students who want to study the sciences so that they can protect us against chemical warfare, they can protect us against viruses, should we not allow them to give all their heart and mind and time to the pursuit of these studies? Eh may shortage na nga tayo ng nurses. May shortage na nga tayo ng iba-ibang health professionals, pharmacists, midwives, doktor – lahat yan shortage. And these are not easy courses. And then, we’ll put now additional units to take them away from it. So medyo it boggles my mind. I am trying very hard to be logical in understanding and digesting the logic, but medyo hindi ko masundan ang premises dito na, ano ba yung kalaban? Ano ba yung security ng Pilipinas na kailangan nating paghandaan? And I am prepared to study it further, but I’d like to get more clarity on these things.

PH: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Let’s not change things na?

SPSC: That’s one way of putting it, Pia. But again, I’m very happy for them to review what our current ROTC program is like, what is the current NSTP program. But to now introduce mandatory ROTC… for example, it says in all the bills, they will exempt persons with disabilities. So the assumption is, it’s a physical exercise. Kasi if you’re exempting these people with physical disabilities, then that means physical kasi yung activity. Eh diba nga yung wars of the future, it could be online? It could be a cyber attack. So parang I don’t feel na we are thinking of the current situation or even the future when we are discussing ROTC again.

As to service to the nation, of course, I think we can all do our part in that. And again, there are different ways of serving the country. And again and again, they refer to disaster risk. Do you really have to have ROTC training to become a volunteer for disaster risk? It would help, and it would be great if that’s the track that you want. But you can participate in disaster risk in many, many ways. You could be a scientist preventing disasters from happening. You could be a teenage volunteer who is monitoring, understands how the sea levels rise. There are different ways. I just have a problem with the argument that ROTC is the way to instill discipline and ROTC is the way to solve our security. There are other ways din naman, let’s not be close-minded naman.

PH: There are different versions in the House and in the Senate…

SPSC: You know, actually, I am chairing a hearing on the Medical Reserve Corps. And this is a priority measure as well, it was mentioned in the SONA. This is also a product of the experiences we had in the pandemic. So walang problema doon. I have no issue, and I may have a similar view with Mr. Guido Delgado [UP Vanguard National Commander, who was earlier interviewed] na we have to have a reserve corps of some sort. But wouldn’t we want a reserve corps that voluntarily wants to be doing that?

This medical reserve corps, kapag may interes ka dyan, you don’t have to be a doctor, you don’t have to be a nurse, but you can be given special training in health, in medical emergencies. Dito sa disaster risk, you can also be given special training, and you volunteer. Why don’t we promote that? Tingnan natin where people want to be, instead of this concept na military.

And on that note, maraming bansa na walang compulsory. Let’s not think na napag-iiwanan tayo because hindi compulsory ang ROTC. We must focus on what our strengths are. And we’ve always said our strength is the FIlipino, the people. So what are those characteristics that we have that we can maximize? Magaling talaga tayo a IT, so baka naman yan ang maging strength natin against whatever threats we will face in the future. So that is the position that I would like to put forward. #

“Let’s not think na napag-iiwanan tayo because hindi compulsory ang ROTC. We must focus on what our strengths are. And we’ve always said our strength is the FIlipino people.” – Senator Pia Cayetano
There are several ways of serving the country and resolving various threats to national security, Senator Pia S. Cayetano emphasized, as she explained her position on the proposed Mandatory ROTC (Reserve Officers’ training Corps) bill in the Senate. Cayetano was interviewed by Pia Honiteros on CNN Philippines’ ‘Politics as Usual’ on Wednesday evening (February 1).

On mandatory ROTC and investing in our youth

Manifestation of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Senate hearing on the proposed mandatory ROTC bill

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

Mr Chairman, I am happy to give a very short intervention for the consideration of our esteemed resource persons, many of whom I know are learned men, most are men yata, yung spokesperson natin sa DND. Sana magdala din kayo ng babaeng spokesperson para may gender voice din tayo. But good afternoon po sa lahat ng spokespersons natin.

Mr Chairman, let me go straight to the points I’d like to raise. I’ve been studying the bills, and as you know, I joined you in the first hearing last Congress, if you recall. I’ve been studying these bills and I note that the the bills have their foundation and history way back in the original ROTC, I don’t know if it was a law or mandate that goes back in 2012. Sen JV Ejercito mentioned this in his explanatory note.

And as I review the different bills, it seems to me that it is still premised on that narrative, yun bang turn of the century where the Filipino people… their human selves are putting their lives at stake to defend their country. Literally yung katawan nila ang human shields. And of course, our Chairman and our colleagues here who have a military background know more about that than me, diba? From bow and arrows to shotguns to propeller planes that were dropping bombs, I am talking about world wars, na naging jets na, naging nuclear war na, and now we’re talking about chemical warfare and cyber attacks, and the like.

So I humbly submit that these bills do not represent those realities. When I read the bills, of course, you will not see anything there that talks specifically about marching on the field and all that. But it seems to be a very physical endeavor, that’s why apparently there is an exception on those with special needs, which was actually pointed out by the representative from the National Youth Commission.

I am all for physical activity, you know that. I’ve done marathons, Ironmans, triathlons. I am all for physical activity. I believe a healthy body goes hand-in-hand with a healthy mind. But if we are truly trying to address these existential threats that we need to face, to me these would be some of the following.

These ‘existential threats’ to me are food security, I need not go into details but just the lengthy discussions even us senators had both on the floor and off the floor, from asin, the passion of our Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Joel Villanueva, from asin to onions, to eggs. Food security is a real threat.

Another threat that we have is water scarcity. Already in some parts of the country. We in Metro Manila, I know because I am from the southern part of Metro Manila, in BF Homes, Paranaque, which is a middle class subdivision. Wow, decades na yan walang tubig at certain times of the day. And in Visayas and Mindanao, there are certain areas there that don’t have electricity, water. These are serious threats to our daily existence and productivity as a nation.

And then third would be the effects of climate change. Sen. Loren Legarda who, always, is on top of this issue, she delivered a privilege speech just this Monday. We have islands that are sinking. The homes of people can be gone in a matter of decades.

And then the draining of our human capital. All over the world, every day, I see news about health workers going on strike in other parts of the world, countries that are richer than us, in the US, in the UK, hospitals that are in dire demand of health workers. Schools that are in demand of teachers. Saan nila kukunin yun? Sa Pilipinas po. They are getting our very valuable human resource for their own needs, not for ours, but for their needs. Karapatan naman po ng mga kababayan natin to go where their heart leads them, where they need to go.

But these are clear existential threats which I don’t think any of our colleagues and our esteemed resource persons can deny. So, my challenge, dear colleagues, and to our resource persons, is how can we use best this human capital?

Kasi when I read the bills, the narrative seems to be nga, yung pagkaalam ko sa ROTC. I’d like you to educate me and tell me how these existential threats I mentioned will be addressed in that way? Because I would prefer, and this is a personal preference, with all due humility, that we continue to invest in the education of our youth for STEM related classes [and] courses, where they would be able to develop our own strengths by way of ensuring that wala nang magugutom sa Pilipinas; by way of ensuring that we desalinate water, we filter water so that we have clean water. And tama naman ang mention nang disaster risk, but these are very specific skills training that are required.

And I humbly submit that we will be taking away valuable hours that should be used, whether it’s in the classrooms or on the field, developing these skills that our youth, either already have or can be further honed, but not by way of military training per se.

Now on the issue of compulsory, narinig ko some of the comments of our dear colleagues, you want a professional group, you want them to be dedicated. Pero the most professional and dedicated are those who choose it for themselves. Hindi yung mandatory na wala ka naman choice and you are forced to do something. Medyo mahirap to get dedication out of that.

And then in terms of love for country and patriotism, I submit that our men in uniform are patriots and devoted to our country. But I also would like to forward the idea that when are we most united? Hindi ba ho when we watch sports, when we see the former Sen. Manny Pacquiao defend the title, when we watch the Olympics, kahit po kaming mga senators cheering in the lounge, nag-break kami sandali just to cheer for EJ Obiena and the other Olympians. And I don’t think anyone can question their dedication, their discipline. So kung ang pag-uusapan is discipline, and I know colleagues of ours who swear that they developed discipline through ROTC training. Ako din, I swear that I developed my discipline through sports training as a varsity athlete. So there are different ways of developing discipline, your honors.

And this is really like what I’d like for us to determine when we come up with a bill that I don’t think any of us would deny that the objectives are good. Developing discipline, love of country, patriotism. We all agree on that. But what is the way to get to that? That is something I feel has to be explored further, deeper. Because there is just not one way, your honor.

So yan ang humble request ko, na pag-aralan ito and tell me, I am happy to sit down and discuss this further because I am really worried na at the rate our education system is going, and we have improved, to take away valuable time from the students to do this, when they could be still serving our country and maybe be more effective by pursuing the courses that are already available there. We have a shortage of nurses, doctors. So mamamatay din ang mga kababayan natin from diseases when we don’t have enough health workers to take care of them.

I’d rather, with all humility, that they be working on this, their degrees to save lives, than an existential threat. And I think the existential threat of being invaded, and the skill requirement naman that will come out of a 2-year graduate will really not be – and again with due respect, I don’t know, I am not an expert – to address that. Pero if we have doctors who are saving lives, I can assure you that they will save lives. If we have teachers who will teach better and come up with students that can address IT cyber attacks, our Chairman was very active in the hearings on that, as were many other colleagues. Cyber attacks are real but we cannot even begin to counter that if we don’t have the expertise in those areas. Those are the areas I feel that are important for us to look into.

So I rest my case there, Mr Chairman. You know that I believe in healthy debates and I am a team player. I would like to work with you on this. And by the way, with all due respect din, I am a graduate of ATCSS, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. I was sponsored by the US government to study in Hawaii and ang classmates ko karamihan are civilian and men, mostly men, pero alam ko may ladies din pero wala lang akong classmate. My classmates were all men in uniform except for one other woman from Hong Kong. So my point is, yung studies namin doon, lahat were on ‘soft security’ kasi these were the threats. Soft security is what I talked about – yung water scarcity, food scarcity, human lives being lost to health issues. And so that’s the discussion that I’d like to be a part of.

And on a last note, thank you Mr Chairman for giving me the time to express my views on this. I also take note that it’s only the National Youth Commission that spoke on behalf of the youth. I believe that there are other youth groups who would like to speak also. And sa akin lang naman po, having been a senator for nakalimutan ko na gaano katagal, 13 years, the Senate has always to my mind been the best venue for the healthy exchange of ideas. So I hope that we will also be able to listen to them. I know it’s the prerogative of the Committee Chair kung sino magsasalita. Pero [for this bill] changing the 4 or 2 years that students are going to be in school, I think it’s very important that we listen to them, including other experts on developmental psychology and education, because I’d really like to know if yung goals natin would be achieved through this manner.

So yun lang po Mr Chairman and thank you very much.#

At the hearing on the proposed mandatory ROTC , Senator Pia Cayetano cited several ways to develop discipline and patriotism among the youth, which would enable them to serve the country. (file photo)

Pia slams vape promo event disguised as a scientific forum

Pia slams vape promo event disguised as a scientific forum
Highlights from the privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
November 8, 2022

Mr. President, every day, there are different articles on the harmful effects of vape products and the danger it poses to users, especially the youth.

May I direct our colleagues to the screen to view some headlines and I will read some [reads news headlines from the plenary monitor]:

•”Vaping has similar impact on the heart as cigarettes, studies warn”;

•”Is vaping really better than smoking? Experts warn vapers [are] exposed to more nicotine”; [and]

•”Vaping adults displayed worrisome changes in blood pressure and heart function, studies find”.

So ayan, for our friends, colleagues, Filipinos who are engaging in vaping, e-cigarettes, may mga health warning talaga ang mga expert. Araw-araw, nakakakita ako n’yan sa news. And yet here we are your honors…the reason for this privilege speech.

Last Thursday, November 3, Philip Morris International… I think they are now calling themselves PMI… issued various invitations to Filipino doctors to attend what they described as a scientific forum, wherein foreign health “experts” discussed vape products as a tobacco harm reduction tool.

Mr. President, I see this as an underhanded move by the tobacco and vape industry to unduly influence members of our medical community to be more accepting of their products, despite the known ill effects of vaping on public health, especially the youth.

What does our law say? The recently passed Vape Law, in Section 12… specifically says that no vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products, or novel tobacco products shall have medicinal or therapeutic claims on its marketing material or packaging, unless such claim is approved by the FDA, pursuant to RA 9711.

Mr President, there is also the FDA Law. Many times, I have brought this up and I will do it again for the record. The FDA defines “health products.” Health products means, “food, drugs, cosmetics, devices, biologicals, vaccines, in-vitro diagnostic reagents and household/urban hazardous substances and/or a combination of and/or a derivative thereof.”

Ito na ang importante: “It shall also refer to products that may have an effect on health which require regulations as determined by the FDA.”

So any product that has an effect on health must be regulated by the FDA. And that’s why mayroon tayong rules and laws that say na bawal mag-claim na mayroong positive health effects, na ang isang produkto katulad ng vapes and e-cigarettes ay ‘harm reduction,” unless nag-register ka as a harm reduction product. Kung hindi ka nag-register [ng vape] as a harm reduction product, you have no business promoting anything. You have no business bringing your so-called ‘health experts’ to the Philippines to talk about harm reduction and the benefits of vaping.

Ayan nga, nasa news delikado siya [vaping]. If you have claims otherwise, then bring it to the FDA and get permission to claim that your products are health products that are now being properly regulated.

Mr. President, this is underhanded and unethical. Again, I will demonstrate to the body and the public some things that are in my handbag that require FDA regulation [shows different products from her bag]:

•eyedrops, sa mata lang ito hindi ito nilalanghap, kailangan ng FDA regulation;

•lipstick, hindi ko ito nilulunok, nilalagay ko lang sa lips ko, kailangan ng FDA regulation;

•powder na may SPF 50, pinapahid ko lang sa mukha ko, hindi ko inaamoy, hindi ko nilulunok, kailangan ng FDA regulation;

•sunblock para sa lips, moisturizer and sunblock, kailangan din ng FDA regulation, hindi ko rin iniinom ito, hindi ko rin nilulunok;

•eye shadow, ganun din pinapahid ko lang sa mata ko hindi sa loob, sa balat; and finally

•alcohol, alam n’yo yan lahat yan, kailangan ng FDA regulation.

Hindi pwede mag-claim na pwedeng gamitin sa isang bagay. Kung ano lang ang pwede, doon lang pwede. So ang tobacco products, and itong mga tinatawag na novel tobacco products, hindi pwedeng basta-basta i-promote yan kahit sa mga doktor na nakakabuti.

Ang mga doktor natin, magagaling. Pero nagre-rely din sila sa mga tinatawag na scientists o experts para bigyan din sila ng bagong impormasyon. Eh yan nga ang mga bagong impormasyon. Ang PMI, magpapa-seminar o tinatawag na “scientific forum” at ang mga imbitado ay mga doktor. May kopya ako ng invitation para sabihin ang beneficial effects ng e-cigarettes, vapes, heated tobacco products. Hindi pwede yun. Bawal yun. It is unethical, your honor.

And it is my firm belief that since we are about to discuss the budget, sayang na andami sa atin…Senator Bong Go just stood up to promote the support for more budget for health, and our Chairman, Sen. Angara is trying to find funding to support health. May additional funding pa yun for health workers, who have dedicated their lives, who have risked their lives during the time of COVID, at the height of COVID, may utang pa tayo sa kanila [medical frontliners], di ba, Sen. Angara? Bilyon ang utang natin sa kanila, tinaya nila ang buhay nila.

Tapos, ito tayo, with one hand, naghahanap ng pondo para tulungan ang health, and with the other hand, pinapabayaan natin ang mga seminar na ito na gumagawa ng health claims na wala namang permiso ng FDA.

So yun lang ang sa akin, Mr President, because this Congress, not this Senate, [but] the previous Senate, passed the Vape Law which happily includes a provision that says na bawal gawin yun. So hindi natin dapat payagan na gawin nila yun. Trabaho ba natin yun? Hindi, trabaho ng FDA at DOH yan. But it is my job to bring it to the attention of the body para sama-sama naman tayong manindigan na hindi tayo pwedeng ganyanin. Hindi pwedeng ang kabataan, ang mga Pilipino, pinagbobola at pinagloloko na dinadaan pa sa doktor ang information na ito na hindi ho tama.

Let me end with a few other visuals. Tingnan niyo naman please, my dear colleagues, ang nasa ad na ito, because the journal does not have pictures. I will just describe, ito po ay mga advertisement [shows old cigarette promotional ads] na ang bida ay doktor, o at least mukhang doktor na pino-promote ang sigarilyo. Di ba ngayon medyo nasha-shock tayo? Wow talaga ha, gumamit pa ng doktor to promote cigarettes.

But this is how it was maybe 50 years ago, your honors. Doktor, dentista ang ginagamit. Guess what? Ngayon, fast forward, ganun pa rin ginagamit nila. Doktor ngayon ang gusto nilang bolahin para doktor din ang magpo-promote ng vapes and e-cigs. It’s the same story. Huwag naman tayong magpabola. Ngayon, shocked tayo.

With all due respect, I try to be a responsible chairman of the Committee on SDGs and Futures Thinking. So let’s put ourselves 50 years from now. Titingnan din natin ang ads na ang kasama ay doktor na nagpo-promote ng vapes and e-cigs, at sasabihin din natin, na ha? Ganun? Pumayag tayo na ganun? So ngayon pa lang, pumayag naman kayo na samahan ako na hindi tayo papayag na ganyan, na nagpapa-seminar in the guise of a scientific forum.

In fact, your honors, ang isang invitation nila, let me read the details. Sabi nila, it’s an “oncology event.” So oncologists pa, specialists pa ng cancer ang inimbita nila para sabihin na ano? Mag-vape na lang ang mga pasyente n’yo? Tama ba yun? Hindi tama yun, your honors.

So on that note, let’s celebrate our anniversary and be united in fighting the good fight. Thank you, Mr President, thank you Majority Floor Leader, naisingit mo ako sa masikip nating schedule and thank you, dear colleagues.#

Unmasking the Vape Bill lies

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)
  • One of two senators who voted ‘no’ to the Vape Bill in the 18th Congress

One of the oldest tricks used by the intellectually dishonest are logical fallacies. These are arguments that seem compelling on the surface, but are really unsupported by facts or scientific evidence. In social debates, such fallacies are used to muddle issues and mislead the public.

That (1) “vapes are banned or unregulated by the government,” and (2) “the Vape Bill protects the youth” – are just two of many logical fallacies used by Vape Bill proponents to push their agenda. Recent pro-Vape Bill press releases are also replete with such lies.

First, vapes are currently not banned, but have been allowed to be sold for several years already. Thus, the Vape bill is not needed simply to make vapes available. It’s also not true that these products are unregulated. The regulatory system led by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took effect last May 25, as mandated by the Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467).

Second, the Vape Bill is not pro-youth. How can it be when it allows more flavors to flood the market by abolishing the RA 11467 provision that limits vapes to plain menthol and plain tobacco? And what could be more anti-youth than lowering the minimum age of access to e-cigs from 21 to 18?

And if in fact, the proponents really believe in regulation, then why are they silent about the Vape Bill’s provision removing the jurisdiction of FDA over vapes and transferring it to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)? What expertise does the DTI have in regulating products that are harmful to health?

I mentioned the false narratives of the Vape Bill camp in my letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, where I also echoed the stand of more than 60 medical associations, as well as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), and Department of Finance (DOF) through their former heads.

May all lies be unmasked. May the truth prevail. Veto the Vape Bill. #

Veto the Vape Bill press conference
Echoing the stand of over 60 medical associations and concerned government agencies, Senator Pia S. Cayetano makes a final appeal to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to veto the controversial Vape Deregulation Bill.

Pia lauds DOH, FDA, PMA

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • One of two senators who voted against the Vape Bill in the 18th Congress
  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)

The medical and scientific experts on tobacco and vape control have spoken. And they have unanimously taken a stand against the enactment of the Vape Bill, which seeks to severely weaken government regulations on vapes and e-cigarettes, while endangering public health and our youth’s future.

I laud the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) for reaffirming their position that the Vape Bill must be vetoed by the President. Thank you for staying true to your mandate as vanguards of public health.

I urge the few doctors supporting the Vape Bill to read the measure in its entirety and answer these questions:

  1. Will the bill’s provisions lowering the age of access to vapes from 21 to 18, and allowing multiple vape flavors to flood the market benefit or harm the youth? and
  2. Will the bill’s provision transferring regulatory authority over vapes from FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ensure the protection of our people and youth from the harmful effects of vapes? I trust that the truth will help you rethink your stand.

Finally, I reiterate my call to the President to heed the united voice of health authorities and medical doctors to veto the Vape Bill. May we continue to build on our gains and work to create a safer and healthier nation for current and future generations of Filipinos. #

Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano has urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to heed the united call of government health authorities led by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, and medical doctors through the Philippine Medical Association to veto the Vape Bill.

Pia appeals to PBBM: veto the Vape Bill

20 July 2022
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace, Manila

Your Excellency:

I am submitting this letter ad cautelam to raise substantial and procedural issues arising from the enrolled bill of the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act,” also referred to as the “Vape Bill.”

The Vape Bill was approved by the 18th Congress, which had its final adjournment on 31 May 2022. [1] The term of its members, both from the House of Representatives and twelve of the members from the Senate, had also ended on 30 June 2022, the same time President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term as President ended.

Because President Duterte neither affixed his signature to the enrolled bill of the Vape Bill, nor exercised presidential veto over the same, before his term ended, we are placed in a legal quandary of having a bill passed by a Congress, composed of different members, that has been
rendered functus officio by its final adjournment, and submitted to the President whose term has ended, being signed into law by a new President. This would create a serious constitutional issue on the validity of a “law” enacted by a Congress without official authority.

As a health advocate, lawyer, and member of Congress, I am of the sentiment that we should avoid technicalities such as these as much as possible, when courts would be constrained to rule on the laws that we make.

Even setting the procedural and possible constitutional issues aside, I believe that Your Excellency should veto the Vape Bill based on the detrimental effects it would have on the health of our fellow Filipinos, as warned by medical associations and health advocates, former DOH secretaries, and concerned government agencies – Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Finance (DOF), and Department of Education (DepEd). These hazards are apparent from the changes the Vape Bill will bring about in our legal and regulatory framework on the industry of vapes and Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), as further discussed below.

The proponents of the Vape Bill anchor their position on: (1) vapes and HTPs as being effective cessation tools from cigarette smoking; and (2) the need to regulate the industry.

However, these arguments are fatally flawed because rather than to regulate, the Vape bill actually removes the protective measures already found under Republic Act No. 11467 or the “Sin Tax Reform Act of 2020,” which was enacted into law last 22 January 2020.

The Vape Bill overturns the following key safeguard provisions of the Sin Tax Reform Act, which provided stricter regulations on the products to protect public health:

1) The jurisdiction to regulate vapes and HTPs will be transferred from the FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

It is incomprehensible how the DTI would perform the task of determining the safety of the products that will be on the market. By its very mandate, it is the FDA that has the power and the expertise to regulate this industry.

As a point of reference, the US FDA rejected 55,000 flavored e-cigarettes due to lack of evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers sufficient enough to overcome the public health threat posed by the alarming levels of youth use of such products. [2]

DTI does not have the mandate and the expertise to determine the health effects of any product, let alone these sin products, which are detrimental to public health.

In fact, vape and HTP users will benefit with the FDA as the regulatory agency, as they will be assured that these products have undergone the appropriate tests based on scientific evidence and established health standards.

2) The prohibition to sell to persons below the age of 21 will be lowered to 18 years old. This means that even our senior high school students will have access to vapes and HTPs. The latest available data from the DepEd would show that there are 1,184,663 learners in senior high and 238,935 learners in junior high, who are at least 18 years old as of SY 2020-2021. By lowering the minimum age of access to vapes from 21 to 18 as mandated by the Vape Bill, the government would send the message to around 1.4 million junior
and senior high school students that it is alright to get hooked on vaping.

Studies have also shown that the brain continues to mature until the age of 25 and that early exposure to nicotine, through vapes and HTPs, could impair the brain’s development. [3]

3) More flavors are allowed, instead of just plain tobacco and plain menthol, which will make these sin products more appealing to the youth.

Vapes and HTPs are being marketed to attract younger people, some of whom have never even smoked a cigarette in their life.

On Regulation vs Ban and Revenue Collection

As a background, Congress had already settled the issue on whether to impose a total ban or to regulate vapes and HTPs during the deliberations on the Sin Tax Reform Act.[4] Both Houses agreed to regulate these sin products by institutionalizing the three (3) aforementioned
crucial protective measures under the said law.

Thus, the government wins by being able to collect much needed revenues from sin taxes, while at the same time minimizing the appeal of the products to the youth with the 21-year age requirement and the limitation of flavors, and it also ensures that there is proper regulation by the FDA.

On the other hand, lowering the minimum age of access to 18 years old will entail more problems for the country in the future. The youth and the next generations after them are possible casualties of vape- and HTP-related diseases. Simply put, the Vape Bill would further increase the cost of related diseases brought about by these products in the Philippines.

International Developments

It is shocking, to say the least, if we consider how differently the United States (US) is addressing the vape pandemic. The US FDA placed Juul’s application for its electronic cigarettes under “additional review.” In order to remain on the market, Juul must prove that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. On the other hand, here in the Philippines, the Vape Bill will allow the relaxation of health protective measures that are already provided under the Sin Tax Reform Act.

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is the importance of listening to science and the experts when it comes to protecting people’s health. If passed into law, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will not only overturn important provisions under the Sin Tax Reform Act, but it will also open the doors for younger people to use these products, and practically encourage such practice in the guise of regulation.

I thus reiterate my urgent call and echo the appeal of more than sixty (60) medical associations and health advocates, former DOH secretaries, and concerned government agencies – DOH, FDA, DOF, and DepEd – to veto the Vape Bill.

We need to listen to health experts on the need to properly regulate vapes and HTPs as these products contain harmful chemicals that affect people’s health. This “regressive measure” goes against all the gains our country has made on tobacco and vape control. In fact, the Vape Bill does not regulate, but actually loosens crucial safeguards and makes these products more available to younger individuals.

Mr. President, I strongly urge you to VETO THE VAPE BILL.


Veto the Vape Bill press conference
“If passed into law, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will not only overturn important provisions under the Sin Tax Reform Act, but it will also open the doors for younger people to use these products, and practically encourage such practice in the guise of regulation.” – Letter of Senator Pia S. Cayetano to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (dated July 20, 2022)

End notes:

[1] The Vape Bill was passed by both Houses on 26 January 2022, and was officially transmitted to Malacañang by the House of Representatives just this 24 June 2022, or five (5) months after its passage and barely three (3) working days before the end of former President Duterte’s term.

[2] FDA Denies Marketing Applications for About 55,000 Flavored E-Cigarette Products for Failing to Provide Evidence They Appropriately Protect Public Health (2021, August 6). US FDA.


[4] Cayetano, P. S. (2019, September 30). “Excise Tax on Alcohol Products.” Philippines. Senate of the Philippines. 18th Congress, 1st Regular Session.