PNP admits gray areas in anti-vape order

(Vaping photo from Getty Images)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon 

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has enforced the ban on vapes or e-cigarettes despite the absence of an executive order from President Rodrigo Duterte that clearly defines the grounds for arresting offenders.

Police Lieutenant Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, PNP deputy chief for operations, said on Thursday that they are contemplating on the contents of Executive Order No. 26, which was basis of the vaping ban.

Duterte issued EO No. 26 entitled “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places” on May 16, 2017.

The executive order invoked the Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 to impose a nationwide ban on smoking in all public places in the Philippines.

It was a replication of an ordinance passed in 2002 in Davao City where Duterte was a former mayor.

On top of that, “we’re evaluating a lot of local government ordinances,” Cascolan said.

He said they will implement arrest on vaping because it’s part of law enforcement.

“Whatever the president says, we will have to implement that. We have to consider also that there are a lot of cases with regards to vape. That’s why, pinag-aaralan ng Malacañang at kung ano man po ang sabihin nila, yun po ang susundin namin,” he said.

But it was gathered that nowhere in the nine prohibited acts under EO 26 pertained to the ban on the importation and use of vapes.

But in a memorandum from the PNP Directorate for Operations addressed to PNP regional directors and the director of the Criminal Investigation and Group (CIDG), the latter were told to “enforce the directive and ensure that violators will be arrested and charged.”

As references, it mentioned Duterte’s directive, EO 26, a memorandum from OIC PNP chief Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa, and other applicable laws.

PNP regional directors and the CIDG were also told to “coordinate with appropriate agencies including vape store owners/malls to enhance the enforcement of this directive.”

Meanwhile, Police Lieutenant Colonel Joem Malong, PRO-6 spokesperson, said that there are indeed gray areas on the directive and they are still clarifying matters.

“But we have to comply because we are mandated to do that,” she said.

Once an arrest is made, Malong said they would refer the case to the prosecution office.

On Thursday, Gamboa said in a press briefing that there is no legal basis for filing cases against vape users.