Health group reminds public schools: Don’t accept ‘Brigada Eskwela’ donations from tobacco industry

HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, cautioned the officials of public schools against accepting donations or any kind of support from the tobacco industry. 

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The reminder came at the heels of the Department of Education’s call for individual volunteers, as well as those from companies, civil society groups and local governments, to participate in the annual “Brigada Eskwela” program and help fix, clean and paint public school classrooms from May 15 to May 20, in time for classes that will begin on June 5.

“Under the Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular 29, s. 2016, with the subject ‘Prohibition on Solicitation or Acceptance of Gifts’, government and state instrumentalities, including public educational institutions, are prohibited from soliciting and accepting any kind of support or donation from the tobacco industry. Principals and teachers are reminded to reject all forms of support extended by the tobacco industry,” said Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza, president and trustee of HealthJustice.

Fernandez-Mendoza likewise gave credit to the Department of Education (DepEd). “The DepEd has done a great job implementing tobacco control policies. Just last month, the department started training public school teachers on the policy guidelines on comprehensive tobacco control. We trust that the tobacco industry will not be able to take advantage of them at this time when it is most convenient to receive help,” Fernandez-Mendoza pointed out.

The memorandum circular signed by CSC Chairperson Alicia Bala specifically states that “all government officials and employees are advised to avoid soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value, or sponsorship for programs and activities from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office as well as from the tobacco industry.”

“Tobacco industry front groups have corporate social responsibility programs, which they implement by first getting in touch with our civil servants. This is a form of unnecessary interaction that DepEd and CSC aim to protect our bureaucracy from. Moreover, it will also be ironic for schools to receive help from companies producing the very products that put the lives of the youth at risk,” Fernandez-Mendoza added.

HealthJustice is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a Programme Partner of the NCD Alliance.

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