Rhod TecsonThe Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force (ICAST) under the leadership of Mr. Ińiego Garingalao must be recognized for its impressive if not successful campaign against smoking in public and in implementing the Regulation Ordinance 2006-156 or the Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance of Iloilo City. The proof to this is the Red Orchid Award Iloilo City received from the Department of Health for its Best Anti-Smoking Initiative.

The award earned the city a cash prize of one hundred thousand pesos which the city mayor used to put up the smoking cessation clinics under the direct supervision of the Iloilo City Health Office. Just before Dinagyang, seven clinics of the same purpose are now operating in the seven districts of the city.

The anti-smoking initiative is a good headstart for the local government unit in promoting healthy lifestyle among its people. It is also a bold move to mitigate the cost of healthcare brought about by treating patients with cancer and smoking related diseases. By US standards, there are at least 228, 190 cases of cancer due to tobacco use this early. (Cancer Facts & Figures 2013)The PH standard is course understandable, it would take all the cancer-stricken patients to die first before a fresh data is released.

The case on hand though is not the effects of smoking in the lives of the readers. Let us leave it to the individual smoker to make his or her own decision. The writer himself is an occassional smoker.

Last January 24, my collegues and I chanced upon a group of uniformed personnel arising from the streets of Guanco and JM Basa. We are inside our service vehicle and well, puffing some smoke. One of the uniformed personnel set his sights on us and shouted “Hoy! Nga a nagapanigarilyo kamo da?” (Hey! Why are smoking in there?) I asked our driver if the guy was serious and he said he doesn’t know. We instead laughed our way out of JM Basa St. away from the ICAST boys.

The incident roused my interest to remind our friends from the anti-smoking task force to observe professionalism in dealing with people or offenders of the ordinance. Any authority vested upon an implementing group for a particular job is never a blanket authority to shout at people to make them recognize your point and power.

 The IDs you  wear bearing the logo of the ICAST and the emblem of the city government is not an excuse for you to act like atiks and bosyo. It actually symbolizes authority with the highest degree of respect and professionalism. After all the salaries you get comes from the people’s money thereby making you public servants who are governed by law to conduct yourselves in the right manner.

While the culture if sita has become a common practice among ignorant law enforcers especially in the Philippines, ICAST volunteers or enforcers must not take it a privilege to do the same with it’s clients. In dealing with offenders, ICAST must approach people in a nice and respectful manner. Afterall, the ordinance do not categorically state that the execution of its provisions must be done thru pang-sita  as if the offenders will appreciate the provisions of the law if its implementation is in a rowdy manner.

Being an ICAST volunteer or member is a noble job. It should not be taken in the context of tinikal kay taga-ICAST ako. It is not giving you the privilege to shout at people.

Going back to my personal experience, if only the volunteer approached and greeted us calmly and made his point clearer without shouting I would have gladly entertained him and discuss with him if smoking inside my vehicle is also prohibited under the anti smoking ordinance.

I am even comtemplating now of breaking the law purposely-that is smoking in front of some ICAST volunteers and have myself arrested. Of course, the idea is funny. I will make sure that before any arrest is effected I will have them recite the whole provision of the Regulation Ordinance which I violated. Afterall, I need to know why I am being arrested. I can only wonder if all the ICAST members and volunteers can memorize the provisions of the ordinance.