Working with like-minded parliamentarians to raise awareness on these three global public health threats allows us to assist and learn from one another Read More
Evacuation centers must support breastfeeding and provide mother- and child-friendly spaces
Last October 30, I lost a mentor. My former seatmate, mentor, and friend Senator Flavier passed away. Read More
By a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court declared the Reproductive Health Law as constitutional. Read More
On the first Saturday of the year, my amazing Senate legal team indulged me and let me buy them a cup of coffee each Read More
On Friday, I launched a breast milk bank at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center – the first of its kind in the Visayas. Read More
Here’s the real deal about the Senate RH Bill.
32 children out of every 1000 live births do not reach the age of 5. These are the children that we can save and the time to act is now.
Tobacco use kills more than five million people per year. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths.
Every eight seconds, someone dies because of smoking-related diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and heart diseases.
Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death. But, if the current patterns continue, tobacco use will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030. Up to half of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers will die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease.
In the Philippines, 34.8% of our population is engaged in tobacco smoking. What is more disturbing is that children as early as nine years old smoke.
For every cigarette stick smoked, a smoker loses at least five minutes of his precious life and also endangers the lives of innocent people around him whose only fault is that they did not forget to breathe.
As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography in the 14th Congress, I heard and then sponsored the bill mandating picture-based warnings on tobacco products (SB 2377).
We need the bill to deter new smokers, especially among the youth, try to lessen the urge of existing smokers, as well as implement our commitment under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is an international treaty initiated by the World Health Assembly. It is the first global public health agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control to which the Philippines is a signatory and which was participated in by 192 countries.
The Philippines acceded to the FCTC in 2005 obliging us to comply with certain standards, such as tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, illicit trade and second-hand smoke. More importantly, the FCTC recommends implementing effective measures on packaging and labeling of tobacco products, such as the adoption of a picture-based health warning on tobacco packages.
I defended this bill on the floor and was hoping it would pass, but there was strong resistance from some senators. It was very disappointing.
Meanwhile, a similar bill filed in the House of Representatives was not prospering either, also due to the resistance of some lawmakers.
Soon after, then Secretary of Health Esperanza Cabral came out with DOH Administrative Order 2010-0013 which mandated that graphic health warnings be placed in tobacco packages in accordance with our obligation under the FCTC.
This was a move I fully supported and was happy to see implemented.
Unfortunately, the tobacco companies filed a petition questioning the legality of DOH AO 2010-0013 and seeking to prevent the DOH from implementing the same. An injunction order restraining the DOH from implementing the AO was granted by a Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan. Thus, the DOH filed a petition with the Supreme Court to question the decision of the lower court.
Former Health Secretaries Francisco Duque III, Jaime Galvez-Tan, Alberto Romualdez, Alfredo Bengzon and Esperanza Cabral, then filed a Motion to Intervene in the Supreme Court case citing that as former health secretaries, “it is our moral responsibility to continue to protect public health interest from an industry that fosters disease and death in its regular course of business.” They also said that “the meddling of the tobacco industry is preventing the DOH from carrying out its mandate to protect and preserve the health and lives of Filipinos.”
In April 2011, the Supreme Court granted said Motion to Intervene.
The mandate for tobacco products to bear graphic health warnings should no longer be a subject of great debate. Studies show that graphic health warnings are effective.
In Brazil, two thirds of smokers (67%) said the warnings made them want to quit.
In Canada, nearly half of smokers (44%) said the warnings had increased their motivation to quit. More than one quarter of smokers (27%) also smoked less inside their home as a result of warnings.
In Singapore, more than one quarter of smokers (28%) said they consumed fewer cigarettes as a result of the warningsand one out of six (14%) of smokers said they avoided smoking in front of children as a result of warnings.
In Thailand, nearly half (44%) of smokers said the pictorial warnings made them “a lot” more likely to quit over the next month.
Now in the 15th Congress, I have re-filed the Senate Bill No. 2340 or the “Picture-Based Health Warning Law”. As Chair of the Committee on Health, I intend to hold a hearing soon. I know the tobacco lobby is strong but policy makers and legislators should not hesitate to support policies and legislation that will promote the health of Filipinos. This is mandated in Sec. 15 of the Philippine Constitution which says that “the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”
Tobacco products have been proven to be hazardous to people’s health. The tobacco companies are not being prevented from conducting business. But since they are selling a hazardous product, they should be responsible corporate citizens and comply with policies that are pro-health.
8 March 2011
Senate of the Philippines
Film Showing on the State of Maternal and Child Health
Last March, in celebration of Women’s month, my office and the Senate, in cooperation with Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine, hosted a film showing on women’s lives.
The films which include a documentary and short films are part of the recently concluded 2nd Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health (QEFF2). This film festival is a nationwide film-making competition by the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity. This combines the visual power of cinema with the passion of the health advocates.
The first film “Sa direksyon ni Makoy: Da Final Cut”, Jury’s Pick for Best Short Film, tells the story of the six final days of a young boy who lives a lonely life because he has HIV. He knows he is going to die just like his mom who also had HIV.
The second film “Badong Buntis” is a very short and funny but so real- a man experiences being pregnant and all the difficulties of being a woman.
The third film is “Ang Ina” which is Jury’s Pick for Best Documentary. Ang Ina is a documentary about the economic hardships of raising a family. It gives us the sad statistics about maternal and infant deaths.
The fourth film is the QEFF Grand Prize Winner “Limang Libo” about how the paths of a midwife and a scavenger with a pregnant wife are intertwined because of poverty.
The last film shown is “Tinalikdan” which follows the plight of two women forced by poverty to make difficult life decisions out of hope and despair.
After the film showing, Dr. Anthony H. Cordero, Director of the Center for Gender and Women Studies- University of the Philippines- Manila, facilitated an open forum.
The film showing was warmly received by a diverse audience including non-governmental organizations, government agencies, students, senate employees and senator’s staff. Senator TG Guingona joined us as well. Also in attendance were members of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine led by Dr. Danilo DV. Alpapara Jr. Also gracing the event and giving a short introduction on their works were Mr. Donnie Sacueza of Ang Ina, Ms.Aiza Jane Idanan of Limang Libo and Mr. Edgar Baltazar of Tinalikdan.
For related blog on our series of film showings.