Up to courts if vaper arrests based on verbal orders legal — IBP

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Vape users arrested over President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal order may bring the matter to court, Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Egon Cayosa said Thursday.

In a phone patch interview with CNN Philippines, Cayosa said those who feel that their arrest for using electronic cigarettes in public is unjust can question it before the courts.

"The judiciary will interpret if the law is applicable or not. If the executive [branch] already made its position, according to the executive, they have a basis, anyone who does not agree with that executive action has the right to go to the courts," he explained in Filipino.

READ: No written orders yet, but PNP ready to 'book' vape users

The IBP is the national organization of Filipino lawyers.

Duterte on Wednesday night said that his order to arrest those using vape is based on a law “which says that you cannot distribute toxic materials in public places.”

The chief executive admitted that there is no executive order yet that contains his latest order. “Never mind, it will come,” he said.

“If it’s an immediate thing, especially if it is to protect the lives of the people, the state under the police power, through the elected officials, can do it,” Duterte added.

Health officials earlier warned the public against using e-cigarettes and vaping products.

“If you are currently using electronic cigarettes, you are at high risk for EVALI. Ask your doctor about the best ways to quit and stay away from its aerosol emissions,” Health Undersecretary and FDA officer-in-charge Eric Domingo said.

No written order yet

The PNP earlier said that those who will be arrested will only be booked on a police blotter and items will be confiscated. 

Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said that there will be "no jail time" for vape users but “if there is a local ordinance, violator may be penalized accordingly."

Questions are being raised on the police’s move to bring vape users to police stations for blotter and confiscation of their items.

The IBP has in the past questioned the legality of arrests based on Duterte’s spoken orders alone.

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.”

Then-IBP national president Abdiel Fajardo raised questions on the validity of the arrest of "tambays," citing a lack of written orders to do so.

He was quoted in a GMA News online report as saying in Filipino: “We have doubts on the legality of the arrest based on a verbal order, that is not stated on paper what is the element of offense or crime.”

Duterte later said he never ordered the arrest of "tambays." 

RELATED: NCRPO: No more arrest of tambays | 20 things you need to know about the 'anti-tambay' drive

Duterte warning cannot hinder court from duties

Duterte also warned the Judiciary to not issue a halt order against his so far strictly spoken directive to arrest vape users.

“Judges, I know that you can determine whether a vaping is good or not. But unfortunately, also your indolence does not inspire confidence. It takes you too long to decide and so do not interfere in this,” the president said.

He also said that if a judge issues a restraining order against the vape ban, he “will not obey your order.”

Cayosa, in turn, stressed that the Constitution guarantees the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

“At the end of the day, any citizen who feels aggrieved can actually go to the court. I’m sure the president, who is a lawyer himself would know that,” he said.

He added: “The fact that he articulated his position publicly does not hinder the court from doing their constitutional duty.”

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