Senator Pia Cayetano with public health advocates

Public health wins in SC decision upholding FDA’s authority

Opening statement of Senator Pia Cayetano
News conference with health advocates
24 June 2022, Philippine Senate

I am delighted to talk about this landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision that is very science-based and upholds the right of Filipinos to health.

And this decision is the case (GR 2200431) where the SC ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power and the authority to regulate cigarettes.

This decision of the SC is so relevant because when I worked on the FDA law (RA 9711) – that was 2009 in the 14th Congress, and I was just on my fifth year as a senator – I was already fighting that the FDA should regulate all products that affect health, kasi yun ang definition sa FDA Law. ‘Health product’ refers to any product that may have an effect on health. In 2009, pinaglalaban ko na yun.

Fast-forward to this Congress, in the last six months prior to the campaign period, pinaglaban ko na naman, because of this new product called the e-cigs and the vapes. In-explain ko na ang health products, as defined by law, is anything that affects health. And the example I gave, sabi ko shampoo, conditioner, insect repellant, lotion, cosmetics, food products – lahat yun nire-regulate ng FDA. So, dapat ang vapes and e-cigs, i-regulate din.

And now, the SC has upheld basically that principle – that if it is a product that affects your health, the FDA should regulate. So talagang nagpapasalamat ako na after all these years, this law can now be implemented.

And on that note, I’ll pass on the floor to our vanguards of health, the doctors, as I said, many of whom have worked on this FDA law, on tobacco control, and even now on these related products called vapes and e-cigs:

Dr. Maricar Limpin
Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP)

Dr. Maricar Limpin
“Hopefully the incumbent President heeds the call of doctors and health advocates to veto the vape bill.”

Bilang isang doktor, napakahalaga sa amin na mabigyan ng proteksyon ang kalusugan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino; Kami ay lubos na nagagalak at buong pusong sumusuporta sa landmark decision ng SC kung saan na-reaffirm ang constitutional mandate ng FDA over any product na pwedeng mag-cause ng injury or harm sa kalusugan.

Every hour, 13 Filipinos die from tobacco use, according to the Global Burden of Disease report published in 2017.

Kailangan ng ahensya na may mandatong proteksyunan ang kalusugan ng mamamayang Pilipino, walang iba kundi ang FDA

Unfortunately, napasa ang Vape Bill in Congress. Sana with this SC decision, mabuksan ang kaisipan ng mamamayan pati leaders ng bansa. Hopefully the incumbent President heeds the call of doctors and health advocates to veto the vape bill

Definitely, the DTI cannot do the job of protecting health; only the FDA has power to do that with the leadership of DOH

Dr. Edgardo Ulysses Dorotheo
Executive Director, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

Dr. Yul Dorotheo
“SC said the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is already part of the law of the land. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng industry na RA 9211 lang ang batas na nagre-regulate sa tobacco.”

In all other ASEAN countries, it is the ministry of health regulating tobacco products.

It is very unusual na dito sa Pilipinas, nilagay ang DTI as the head of the interagency committee on tobacco.

In the US, the US FDA is considering lowering the level of nicotine in cigarettes and banning menthol in tobacco products. They also regulate e-cigs.

Before the US surgeon general came out with the first report on smoking and health in 1964, cigarettes were considered as consumer products for 60 years. Since 1964, governments across the world have been regulating tobacco products as health products. Humahabol lang po tayo sa kasaysayan.

More than 8 million people are killed every year due to tobacco – more than 120,000 Filipinos a year. It is not just a regular consumer product. Cigarettes are now more harmful than before.

SC said the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is already part of the law of the land. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng industry na RA 9211 lang ang batas na nagre-regulate sa tobacco

Dahil dito, tumatawag kami sa pangulo to veto the Vape Bill pending in his office bago bumaba sa pagka-pangulo, para sa kalusugan ng lahat ng Pilipino.

Dr. Ken Hartigan-Go
Former Director-General, FDA

Dr. Ken Hartigan-Go
“After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.”

After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.

Our tobacco regulation framework should cover 5 Ps:
•Producers: should be obligated to disclose limits of capacity;
•Process: what processes are involved in making the products;
•Product: what hazardous chemicals are present in the products;
•Place: where are they advertised, etc.; and
•People/public: the role of regulation is to help public decide what is safe and unsafe

At the end of the day, consumers should be able to make the right choices.

Dr. Rizalina Racquel Gonzalez
Chairperson, Philippine Pediatric Society Tobacco Control Advocacy Group

Dr. Riz Gonzalez
“The number one factor that attracts kids to e-cigs are flavors, online accessibility, and e-cigs being advertised as safer than cigs – pero walang katotohanan.”

Senator Pia is our hero noon pa man, pinaglalaban niya ang kalusugan ng kabataan.

Hindi namin malilimutan ang mandatory hepa b vaccination (RA 10152). Napakarami na pong success stories ng mga batang naalis sa panganib. It’s a very good public health measure.

Tuwang-tuwa kami that the SC upheld the FDA as a regulatory body for tobacco and related products.

Marami ang nagtatanong sa amin: ano po ba ginagawa ng government para ma-protect ang mga bata?

Ngayon, masasagot na namin nang malinaw: that the government is working for the protection of children’s right to health.

Now, there’s a very controversial bill na malaki ang epekto sa kabataan.

The number one factor that attracts kids to e-cigs are flavors, online accessibility, and e-cigs being advertised as safer than cigs – pero walang katotohanan.

Ang FDA bilang regulatory body ay may ngipin para protektahan ang kabataan.

Sana ang Vape Bill na nakabinbin, i-veto. Kabataan ang maaapektuhan nito. Sana FDA ang maging regulatory body, at ma-implement ang flavor restrictions na attractive sa mga bata.

Atty. Benedict Nisperos
Legal consultant, Health Justice Philippines

Atty. Ben Nisperos, Health Justice
“Any attempt to remove the FDA’s regulatory power over these products is a betrayal of public health.”

We stand with the landmark decision of SC. It reinforces our continuing advocacy to protect the people’s right to health.

[Tobacco products] is a public health concern that must be regulated by the FDA. Any attempt to remove the FDA’s regulatory power over these products is a betrayal of public health.

We express our gratitude to Senator Pia for leading the cause to implement the FDA’s mandate to regulate these products. It’s a victory for the people

We want to highlight other victories:
•The upholding of tobacco as ‘health products’;
•The upholding of FDA’s mandate to regulate; and
•Recognition of WHO FCTC as part of the law of the land.

We see the following action points to safeguard this decision:
•Strengthen FDA by investing resources in them;
•Invest more on health promotion; and
•Encourage everyone to stay vigilant against machinations of the industry to advocate their interests. Case in point is the Vape Bill.

This will not be the last time we will see the tobacco industry influencing public policy. But as long as we help each other for the right to health, we will succeed.

Senator Pia Cayetano’s closing statement:

Each of the speakers today spoke about the different aspects of how this landmark decision can really turn around the health of Filipinos. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of illness. And I am not a doctor, I always make that disclaimer, but having listened to a lot of health experts and studied on my own, [smoking] aggravates a lot of other health conditions.

So like I said, it is timely because in the last six months prior to the campaign, we debated this issue involving vapes and e-cigs.

Nakakatawa kasi kinukwento ko kay doktora dito na on my way here, sinabi ko sa anak ko na 12 years old, papunta ako sa meeting kung saan pag-uusapan namin ang dangers ng vape. Tapos sabi ng anak ko, “didn’t you ban that already?” Kasi naaalala niya na sinabi ni Presidente na iba-ban. Tapos sabi ko, “kung ako tatanungin, gusto ko i-ban, pero may ibang issues involved diyan so the final decision in the Senate, at least, and Congress, in general, was that we will regulate.”

Kaya nga meron tayong Sin Tax Law (RA 11467), wherein it was very clear in my mind that instead of banning – and I remember Sen. Tolentino was one of the proponents of banning – we will highly regulate.

That’s why in the Sin Tax Law pa lang, andoon ang tatlong major provisions, one of which is FDA will regulate, because yun na yung talagang number one protective measure natin. And to give an example, months later nung Vape Bill na ang pinagdi-diskusyunan, sabi ko, in the US, 55,000 flavors were banned by the US FDA, tapos dito, ayaw niyo ibigay sa FDA? Sino ngayon ang magre-regulate ng flavors na yun?

My late father (Senator Rene L. Cayetano), it’s his death anniversary tomorrow (June 24). And ang aking desire to serve the Filipino people was also brought about of course by his serving the Filipino people. So when you [Dr. Gonzalez] mentioned hepatitis, sabi ko timely nga because doon ako nag-umpisa, yung interest ko on healthcare.

Back to my story, I mentioned [my father] because it was his belief na kailangan magpaliwanag ka sa tao na parang hindi ka abogado. Magpaliwanag ka, sa paraan na maiintindihan niya. And that’s why in-explain ko ito in a way na maiintindihan ng anak ko na 12 years old.

So balik ako sa kwento, sabi niya, “Oh so you didn’t ban?” Sabi ko kasi nagkaroon kami ng debate kaso natalo ako. Nilagay namin ang regulations, pero nagkaroon ng another bill na tinanggal pa sa FDA – sinabi ko pa yun, the government agency that tells you if the ingredients are not good. So sabi niya, “Oh, so that’s democracy.”

And I said, “that is democracy.” I lost, natalo ako sa botohan. Sometimes, I am not happy about the outcome of democracy, but that is democracy. We represent the Filipino people and my colleagues voted na tanggalin yan sa FDA. Nakakalungkot but that is democracy. But this is also democracy: that we can still talk about it, we can go to the SC, which we did.

Democracy included that the FDA law 12 years ago, na sinabi [ng tobacco industry] na hindi kasama ang cigarette. Bakit special ba kayo? VIP kayo? Bakit hindi kayo kasama? Well now, the SC has said, “Hindi, kasama kayo.”

And I love the clarification that Dr. Ken gave na teka, baka akala niyo kung sinabing kasama sa ‘health products’ ang cigarettes is may benefit yun? All he was saying, which I think is worth repeating is, sabi ng batas, anything that affects the health, in that sense, is a health product, na dapat i-regulate. Hindi ibig sabihin healthy siya. In the case of cigarettes, walang healthy doon.

I bring it back to the present day na we are rejoicing that the SC made this decision, and the decision is clearly that the FDA must regulate all products that affect health. So this to me would clearly include vapes and e-cigs. On that note, it makes it simpler if the President would veto the bill. A lot of us are quite confident because naiintindihan niya ang science. We are hoping talaga that he would veto.

But from what I know, wala pa sa Malacanang ang bill [Vape Bill] na medyo nagtataka ako, kasi January pa pumasa yan at wala pa sa Malacanang. So as far as I am concerned, pagdating ng June 30 and wala pa yan kay Presidente… because that is his responsibility, we pray that he will do the right thing and veto it. But if hindi pa pinadala sa Malacanang yan before June 30, tapos na yan. Because it was not sent to the President on time. And my prayer is that the new President and his administration would uphold healthcare. I know the President comes from a tobacco-growing [province], but I also know that the President will do what he needs to do to protect the health of the Filipino people.

So whatever challenges we have in the days to come, lahat tayo Pilipino, sabi nga ng anak ko, this is democracy, we will use the legal system to ensure that we can protect the health of the Filipinos, and we look forward to this administration doing the same, kasi nasa kanila naman yun. That is in the hands of the administration to take the lead and to lead by example. #


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