SC allows ex-Health Secretaries to intervene in landmark tobacco case


Are pictures on cigarette packs not too far behind? The Supreme Court granted the petition of five Former Health Secretaries to intervene in the legal battle between the Department of Health (DOH) and the tobacco industry over the validity of DOH Administrative Order No. 13 or the Graphic Health Information order.

“The wheels of justice are in motion,” said Dr. Esperanza Cabral, one of the intervenors and the Secretary who issued the order in May 2010. “Health justice is not far behind, we hope sooner rather than later.”

In January of this year, the five former Health Secretaries Esperanza Cabral, Jimmy Galvez-Tan, Francisco Duque, Alfredo Bengzon and Alberto Romualdez filed the petition to intervene in the case between Mighty Tobacco and the DOH pending before the Supreme Court.

The intervenors, all medical doctors, have witnessed the devastating effects of tobacco use on the health and well-being of Filipinos whom they served in their decades of practice. World Health Organization estimates place the number of deaths of Filipinos from tobacco at 240 a day, making it an alarming public health crisis. Seven out of the ten primary causes of mortality in the country – stroke, cancer, heart attacks, tuberculosis, chronic lower respiratory disease, pneumonia, and diseases that occur around childbirth – are tobacco-related diseases.

A related case was filed in Makati in September 2010 by a group of over 160 petitioners led by former Health Secretary and Senator Juan M. Flavier, seeking an affirmation of the validity of AO 2010-0013. This makes a total of six health secretaries supporting the order.

“Filipinos have a right to know. 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,” continued Dr. Cabral.

Dr. Angelina Galang, of the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, was also hopeful. She said, “Because tobacco kills, transparency and truth must involve showing graphically what are likely to happen when this product is used as intended.”

The DOH can enforce AO 2010-0013 and impose administrative sanctions like seizure, recall and condemnation against tobacco manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and importers that are not covered by injunctions issued by any court. #