Court stops MMDA smoking ban

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2011 11:15 AM | Updated as of Oct 26 2011 09:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A Mandaluyong City trial court has issued a writ of preliminary injunction against the Metro Manila Development Authority(MMDA)'s anti-smoking campaign in Metro Manila.

In a six-page order handed down on Tuesday, Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court(RTC) Branch 21 Judge Carlos Valenzuela enjoined MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino and those persons acting within his authority to stop from arresting persons who will be caught smoking in public places along major and secondary roads in the metropolis and places not listed in Republic Act No. 9211(Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003).

The injunctive writ stays until the court lifts it or until the pending case filed by a certain Antony Clemente and several smokers arrested by virtue of the campaign is decided.

"[P]ending the determination of whether or not the respondent MMDA has valid authority to implement RA 9211, there is an obvious and imperative need for preliminary injunction, a provisional measure to prevent or restrain in the meantime the MMDA to implement its Smoking Ban in open areas not covered by the definition of public places in RA 9211 so that its implementation may not render moot and academic the main issue in this case," the order read.

Section 5 of RA No. 9211 "absolutely" prohibits smoking in the following public places:
a. Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels, and recreational facilities for persons under eighteen (18) years old;
b. Elevator and stairwells;
c. Location in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials;
d. Within the buildings and premises of public and private hospitals. Medical, dental, and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories;
e. Public conveyance and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurant and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas; and
f. Food preparation areas.

The court stated that the bond in the amount of P100,000 earlier posted by petitioners for the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the court in August shall suffice as the bond for the injunctive writ.

The MMDA has recorded  8,427 violators, 7,878 of whom are male, and 549, female, as of September 21. In spite of the TRO, the MMDA continued the campaign arguing that the restraining order only barred the agency from apprehending violators in places not covered by RA No. 9211.

Violators were fined P500 on first offense while those who cannot afford to pay the fine were obliged to render an eight-hour community service.