• Making a vice go up in smoke


    Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Pia Cayetano are bent on putting picture-based health warning signs on tobacco products. I wonder if this supposed “deterrent” to smoking will affect our “Man of Steel” in Malacanang who often has coughing fits. Oh well, maybe, to affect the members of The Great Unwashed who continue to smoke, how about printing a picture of a coughing President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino 3rd  on cigarette packs? This might convince them that tobacco is no respecter of social and economic status.

    It’s been more than a year since Congress passed the law increasing the tax on tobacco products. So far, there has been no study to show if the higher price of cigarettes has caused smokers to consume fewer sticks. In my barangay in Lupao, Nueva Ecija, farmers and even students without any visible source of income still continue to smoke. This reminds me of a previous study by the Department of Health (DOH) that found there were more smokers among the less privileged than among the rich and famous. Maybe, this is because there are more poor people despite the vow to end corruption. The DOH said that the Philippines had 17.3-million smokers with the largest segments coming from the youth and the poor.

    Going back to deterring or minimizing smoking, there are some who say that if a person ignores the health hazards of their vice, then the state should allow him to die prematurely. A friend said that if a person smokes despite his knowledge that he is going to an early demise, the state should acknowledge his death wish. He likened the cigarette addict to informal settlers who refuse to remove their houses in flood-prone areas despite government warnings. He says that the national government should stop lending them a hand if they insist on staying in harm’s way.

    In the case of informal settlers, I believe help should still be extended to them but not by the national government. It’s well known that local officials have been encouraging the establishment of squatter communities to assure themselves of a reservoir of votes come election day. This being the case, then any help to squatter families endangered by floods should come from the local government and not from the national government.

    Back to deterring or minimizing smoking. The problem with letting them do their thing is that it also affects the health of non-smokers. What’s more, the state’s expense for the treatment of smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, heart attack, stroke and emphysema, and the loss in productivity would continue to increase unless smoking is minimized.

    Senator Pia said that in 2010, the public health care costs and productivity loss from the smoking habit was estimated at P188 billion, or more than the P103.8 billion earned by the government from cigarette taxes. The health-conscious senator (she’s a tri-athlete) is understandably pushing for any move that would weaken the smoking vice, and I believe this holds true whether our coughing Man of Steel likes it or not.

    No one-man committee

    Those who see nothing wrong in Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona’s releasing to media an unsigned report fail to see one thing – a committee is a collegial body and not even its chairman could decide by his lonesome what a report should contain. Sure, a draft committee report is normal, but it is also normal for the draft report to be routed to members and be filed with the Committee on Rules before a copy is given to the media.

    Now, if the members of the yellow ribbon committee don’t feel insulted in not being able to read a copy of the draft report before Guingona’s presscon, then they deserve to be treated that way. And if the committee report doesn’t mention anything about a witness’s lying at a public hearing, then they should stop mouthing the claim of being after the truth though Heaven falls. A person could get away with falsehood without even a slap in the wrist? Now, that’s a true oversight.

    Come to think of it, senators have never been known to be very keen on committee affairs unless hearings are televised. The national budget is supposed to be the single most important measure to be passed by Congress but go to a budget hearing and you’ll see only a handful of senators there. There was a time during the Eighth and Ninth Congress when staffers of senators were the ones attending hearings, asking questions to resource persons and voting in the name of their principals. It’s no wonder that a staffer once crowed to this Congress Insider: “We are this Senate.” This practice was eventually stopped when the legality of delegating legislative powers to unelected staffers was questioned.



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