This photo illustration shows a man exhaling smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC on September 12, 2019.
AFP/Eva Hambach
No written orders yet, but PNP ready to 'book' vape users
Kristine Joy Patag ( - November 20, 2019 - 4:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — In a late night press conference Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the arrest of those who vapes and e-cigarettes in public, saying the alternative to cigarettes "is toxic."

Citing the government’s power to protect public health, Duterte told reporters in a streamed press conference: “I said smoking is dangerous. So vaping is also dangerous and I am banning it. And if you are smoking now, you will be arrested.”

Duterte said that an "executive order will follow," but insisted that he has "urgent power" to order the ban against vaping.

The Philippine National Police did not wait for a formal executive order before saying they are ready to implement Duterte's spoken order.

Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, PNP’s officer-in-charge, was quick to order all police units “to enforce the ban on use of vapes, ensure that all violators will be arrested and properly recorded in the police blotters.”

Where is the paperwork on vape ban?

In 2017, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 26 banning smoking in enclosed public places and in public conveyances.

The EO defined smoking as "being in possession or control of a lit tobacco product," which is a product “entirely or partly made of tobacco leaf as raw material which are manufactured to be used for smoking, sucking, chewing or snuffing such as but not limited to cigarette, cigar, pipe, shisha/hookah and chew tobacco.”

E-cigarettes use a liquid that often, but not always, contains nicotine.

Asked on the legal basis of the PNP's arrest, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told "I am sure that the executive order is ready to be executed following the president's verbal order."

Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, for his part, said that EO 26 will “partly” be the basis of the arrest of vape users. He added that “another EO will be issued for [the] ban on vapes.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Palace has yet to issue an executive order on the ban on e-cigarettes.

"Yes, surely, but nauna na. Hindi na kailangan. You know, as a government worker here standing working here, I have that urgent power to do it. So I’m ordering it. The EO will follow," the president, whose spoken orders are taken by law enforcement agencies as if they were written in a formal directive, said.

No jail time for 'vape nation'

In a message to Pilipino Star Ngayon, Banac explained that those who will be arrested will only be booked on a police blotter and items will be confiscated. “No jail time,” he added.

“If there is a local ordinance, violator may be penalized accordingly,” Banac also said.

Asked if such arrest will be deemed legal despite the lack of an EO, Guevarra said: “Let’s cross the bridge when we get there.”

The Quezon City government in 2018 issued an ordinance prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed spaces.

Last week, the city government of Pasay issued an ordinance banning vaping in hospitals, healthcare centers, educational and recreational facilities.

Duterte’s word as law?

This is not the first time that the police eagerly enforced a spoken order from Duterte.

In July 2019, Duterte threatened those who will seek his impeachment with jai time, and the PNP said they would not hesitate to arrest if there are “violations.”

“It depends. It could either be sedition or libel. It depends on which violation of the law we see,” then-PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said.

Also in July, the PNP shut down more than 23,000 gaming outlets of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office following Duterte’s verbal order on “the closure, the stoppage of all gaming schemes of whatever nature, however done, that got their franchises to do so from the PCSO.”

Law enforcement agencies implement arrest orders that are issued by court, when the judge finds “probable cause” to do so. A person may also be arrested if a crime is committed in the presence of law enforcement. In which case, an inquest proceeding must be held immediately to determine if charges should be filed.

In 2018, the Philippine National Police began rounding up 'tambays', or loiterers, after Duterte ordered them to impose stricter measures against loiterers, whom he described as "potential trouble for the public.”

"Until the Supreme Court says they cannot do it. I am now invoking the police power of the state to establish order safety [and] that is not subject to a legislation," the president said in response to criticism of the campaign.

He later said that he never ordered loiterers arrested.

RELATED: NCRPO: No more arrest of tambays

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