About

Proyosi, Inc. is an SEC-registered non-profit organization established to represent the interests of tobacco consumers and ferry those across various sectors, forums and collective consultations with the government and in other public/private undertakings that would warrant the participation of or the delivery of the “voice” of Filipino smokers.

Proyosi aims to be at the forefront of important national and local policy matters impacting on the rights and civil liberties of smokers, and to protect their social statuses against marginalization, discrimination and undue stereotyping.  It engages in proactive and other civic projects deem beneficial to the general public, which may or may not be directly associated with tobacco and its consumption.

Proyosi enjoins smokers to unite and uphold their rights.  It was created to protect the interests of tobacco consumers and balance the unwarranted impacts of ‘hate’ campaigns against them by intolerant anti-smoking groups. The issue here is no longer about health, but mainly, a liberty issue.

Story

Proyosi was founded in February 2016 by Anton “Tony” Israel, a former TV/radio anchor and commentator (RJTV-29/RJAM-810kHz), a social cause advocate and a cigarette smoker.  He lives in Iloilo City, where  a strict city ordinance is being imposed like there is really a  total smoking ban in effect.  Iloilo City promotes itself as a smoke-free city and takes pride in its status as a grand-slam (three-time) “Red Orchid” awardee.

Proyosi was conceived amidst aggressive enforcement practices observed as being unreasonable, arbitrary and predatory. Chances are, the young, the weak and the ignorant will likely get apprehended than older adults who exude confidence, knowledge and resolute attitude when smoking outdoors.  In view of the numerous noticeable obnoxious occurrences,  the tightening of social control measures waged against smokers created a situation that calls for reason, critical thinking, fairness and balance.

Proyosi anchors its campaign on upholding smokers’ rights under the RA 9211 [Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003]. Since its enactment in 2003,  everything between smokers and this Philippine Law was in harmony.  The balance was stable all the time.

Some 10 years later, however, the established norms of how Filipino smokers should carry out smoking in public were gradually strained with the passing and amending of local ordinances meant to curb tobacco consumption. Some local government units [LGUs] have even resorted to progressive tightening (in silence) to avoid dissent. In effect, the smokers are now being separated (void of consultation and due process) from the law that assures them of their civil rights. Fundamentally, this undue separation from the RA 9211 and the adherence [in lieu] to various versions of local no-smoking ordinances have nonetheless contributed to the confusion over how the E.O. 26 of President Duterte should be implemented.

Now, with the apparent ambivalence towards the E.O. 26 or in combination with existing local no-smoking ordinances, the need for an oversight and active engagement by a concerned organization like Proyosi has become even more pronounced. There are a lot of critical issues regarding enforcement matters that need to be monitored, reported and straightened-out. Notwithstanding the clamor by public health advocates for higher sin taxes and to make access to cigarettes even harder, the stronger the need for smokers to band together and get their voice heard across various policy-making processes. 

Problems and Questions

Republic Act No. 9211 [RA 9211],  otherwise known as the Tobacco Regulation Act, took effect in 2003. Smokers have adhered to this law without encountering much problem. The public has generally understood why smoking in confined places should be prohibited. On the other hand, business ran “as usual” for cigarette vendors. For almost a decade, the sort of system the RA 9211 has created can be described as “harmonious.” The smokers were at peace with society and vice versa.

In 2013 and thereabouts, a number of local government units (LGUs) started introducing their own anti-tobacco/no-smoking measures.  As a matter of scaling-up certain relevant rules not covered in the RA 9211, the resulting enforcement regulations and practices by LGUs have been often confusing and intimidating since. Uninformed of their rights and often due to sheer ignorance, smokers could be taken aback. When outdoors, smokers are consistently exposed to sudden apprehension and threat of embarrassment by anti-smoking enforcers. To delimit smokers’ access to supply, vendors are being watched tightly.

The situation became even more confusing when the Executive Order No. 26 [E.O. 26] was implemented on July 23, 2017. Just as the E.O. 26 mandates the participation of as many LGUs as possible, including the Philippine National Police and local barangays, such a single local ordinance enforcement can break-up arbitrarily into “just as many” also, depending on which agency is in-charge. Disappointingly, many of these so-called enforcers lack the necessary comprehension that should enable them to articulate the violation. Instead, out of eagerness perhaps, the resulting interaction between the apprehending enforcer and the offender can get too confrontational, unfriendly and discriminatory.

Of another important concern is the persistence of some public health advocates in pressing the Senate for a “double sin tax” on tobacco. It is a “must-watch” development because if passed, the burden will be levied heavily upon the tobacco consumers. A pack of Marlboro Red, for example, could easily fetch as high as Php 100.00.

Some of the questions, however, are: how such a move will impact on the poor? Do health advocates have the right quality of data to support their projected targets on excise tax revenues? What are needed to parry the attacks against the simple pleasures smokers do derive from lighting up? As smokers, can we just allow them to push our heads deeper into the water without showing any form of struggle or a fight?

Mission

Proyosi stands committed in protecting the rights and interests of approximately 16 million Filipino adult smokers. The framework for addressing this commitment is based on nationalism, reason, respect, freewill, dignity, happiness and harmony. To guide us, here are some of the starter concepts we engender:  

Smokers’ empowerment.

Proyosi believes in the concept of information as source of empowerment.  Therefore, its immediate goal is to educate smokers towards responsible smoking and make them aware of their rights as well as lawful limitations on the exercise of freedom to smoke in open public spaces. Here, it is assumed that the more they become knowledgeable, the more confident and better capable they are in fending themselves off against intimidation, harassment or unjust apprehension.

Participation, engagement and public consultation.

Proyosi shall seek participation in the deliberation of public policies and legislation in Congress pertaining to tobacco consumption, taxes and other forms of control. We want an end to dialogues or public hearings on smoking policies without due representation. In the spirit of democracy and providing equal opportunity, the voice of the smokers should be heard  just as much as the no-smoking advocates would want theirs to be heard. The smokers’ interests need to be equitably represented.

Multi-sectoral approach.

Tobacco consumption in the contexts of Philippine agriculture, hospitality industry and small-scale livelihood is no trivial matter.  Tobacco is homegrown, a well-institutionalized agri-economy and its consumption benefits not only the Filipino farmers but a host of others in the supply chain. These of course include the retailers and loose cigarette vendors [sari-sari stores and takatak boys]. The hospitality industry is also affected by smoking restrictions.

In the spirit of reason and inquiry, Proyosi feels obliged to question in proper forums the economic viability/implications of such moves to further raise the sin taxes for tobacco. Proyosi envisions to consult, build relationships with and collect data from sectors and individuals affected by disruptive schemes and proposals related to tobacco control.  Together we will make a stand and amplify in public the indispensability of tobacco to the Philippine economy.

Proyosi, Inc. is an SEC-registered non-profit organization established to represent the interests of tobacco consumers and ferry those across various sectors, forums and collective consultations with the government and in other public/private undertakings that would warrant the participation of or the delivery of the “voice” of Filipino smokers.

Proyosi aims to be at the forefront of important national and local policy matters impacting on the rights and civil liberties of smokers, and to protect their social statuses against marginalization, discrimination and undue stereotyping.  It engages in proactive and other civic projects deem beneficial to the general public, which may or may not be directly associated with tobacco and its consumption.

Proyosi enjoins smokers to unite and uphold their rights.  It was created to protect the interests of tobacco consumers and balance the unwarranted impacts of ‘hate’ campaigns against them by intolerant anti-smoking groups. The issue here is no longer about health, but mainly, a liberty issue.