THE 12th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) has ruled that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is not among the government agencies deputized to enforce the law against smoking in public.
The CA said the MMDA has no police power to give teeth to Republic Act (RA) 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.
“Clearly, RA 9211 did not give respondent-appellant MMDA the power to implement the law,” the 16-page decision penned by Associate Justice Maria Elisa Sempio-Diy, read.
Associate Justices Ramon Bato Jr. and Manuel Barrios concurred with the ruling.
The appellate court ruling, dated July 31, affirmed the decision of Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Carlos Valenzuela to issue a writ of preliminary injunction against MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino to stop from arresting persons who will be caught smoking in open areas in Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR).
Anthony Clemente and Vrianne Lamson sued the MMDA before the Mandaluyong RTC after they were arrested by MMDA constables for smoking in front of Farmers Market in Cubao, Quezon City. The RTC ruled in favor of the petitioners, prompting the MMDA to elevate the issue to the CA.
“From the evidence so far presented in this petition, this court finds that petitioners were apprehended by respondents while smoking in an ‘open area.’ The area of assignment of respondents’ witnesses and where petitioners were apprehended, as shown by the pictures presented by respondents, is clearly not an ‘enclosed or confined area.’ Neither is it a bus station, nor is it a designated non-smoking area, as what respondents postulated it is. On the contrary, the said area, which is right beside EDSA is an ‘open area’ that serves as a sidewalk for the general public,” the lower court ruling states.
The RTC argued that “being an open area, a sidewalk without a confined or enclosed space cannot be considered within the definition of public places under Section 3 (n) , in relation to Section 5 of RA 9211.”
In its petition, the MMDA argued that its authority is provided for in Sections 2, 3(f) and 9 of RA 7924, which allows the agency to exercise “regulatory and supervisory” authority over the delivery of Metro-wide services which have Metro-wide impact. These services include health and sanitation, urban protection and pollution control.
But the CA said under Section 29 of RA 9211, the MMDA is not among the members of the Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco (IAC-Tobacco) that has the exclusive power and functions to implement and administer the provisions of the law.
The IAC-Tobacco is composed of the chiefs of the Agriculture, Justice, Environment and Natural Resources, Science and Technology and Education departments and the National Tobacco Administration.
Representatives from the tobacco industry and a non-government organization involved in public health promotion nominated by Departmenf of Health are also included in IAC-Tobacco.
“Clearly, RA 9211 did not give [the]MMDA the power to implement the law … MMDA is also not stated as one of those members of IAC-Tobacco,” the decision read.
The CA noted that even anti-smoking ordinances did not give the MMDA the authority to implement local laws.
“MMDA, in issuing its resolution implementing RA 9211, arrogated upon itself powers and functions which are not given to it by law. Accordingly, respondent-appellant MMDA’s resolution implementing RA 9211 is invalid and ineffectual,” the court said.
It added that the Supreme Court has already made a ruling in the case of MMDA vs Garin that it has no police power and legislative power.
“Respondents-appellants cannot find solace solely in its charter [RA 7924] to validate its implementation of RA 9211. To reiterate, respondent-appellant MMDA’s functions are purely administrative in nature. It has no police power and legislative power,” it pointed out.