Police backtrack on ban, saying e-cigarette smokers will be warned, not arrested

<i>Photo: Koke Mayayo/Unsplash</i>
Photo: Koke Mayayo/Unsplash

It must be tough being the Philippine National Police (PNP). What with the president issuing edicts left and right, it’s a constant scramble figuring out how to enforce the legally shaky pronouncements, particularly without running afoul of the pesky old “law.”

As such, it’s no surprise that the PNP today found itself sheepishly backtracking from its initial announcement that it would arrest e-cigarette smokers on sight at the president’s behest, clarifying that they would merely warn those caught vaping in public instead.

President Rodrigo Duterte abruptly and unilaterally ordered a ban on e-cigarettes and the arrest of vapers in a late-night presser on Tuesday, insinuating that old school cigarettes were superior because it’s at least known just how bad for you they are.

However, the proclamation didn’t exactly carry the force of law given that the president has yet to issue an executive order, making his verbal instruction devoid of legal basis (something the president himself noted, then immediately dismissed as unimportant because he’s the president).

Read: ‘If you are smoking now, you will be arrested’: Duterte bans vaping, says cigarettes are better

However, that hasn’t stopped the PNP from trying to figure out how to enforce the edict anyway. In an interview with radio station DZMM, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said that Executive Order 26, which prohibited smoking in enclosed public spaces, will be the force’s basis for enforcing Duterte’s surprise ban — though they’ll also be ignoring the letter of that law by applying it to unenclosed public spaces as well.

“We’re waiting for the president to issue a new executive order, but based on an older executive order, that [will be prohibited] because of the smoke. That will be our basis, these vape users make so much smoke. This is in response to our president’s instructions,” Banac said in Filipino.

“We will just record them on our police blotter. There will be no detention or jail time. We will immediately set them free,” Banac added. “This will just be a warning to vape users to smoke in the right places and not in areas where they could bother other people.”

Banac’s announcement today contradicts the order issued yesterday by the PNP’s officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, who had said anyone caught vaping will be arrested.

Duterte, meanwhile, has said he will follow up with, y’know, an actual legally binding order at some point. In his speech last night in Quezon City, the former lawyer also warned the judiciary not to block the vaping ban, saying if they did try to knock it down, he’d ignore them anyway.

“I do not want anyone in the Philippines vaping. The executive order will come,” he said.


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