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Priest Urges Smokers To Sue Cigarette Firms

By Allison Lopez, Philippine Daily Inquirer – 31 Mar 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Saying his brother Vincent has finally given a face to smoking’s ill effects, Fr. Robert Reyes and anti-smoking advocates Monday urged other victims to file cases against tobacco companies.

Reyes said the fact that his brother’s P500,000 damage suit against Philip Morris has reached the pre-trial stage was already a huge accomplishment.

“Because Judge Winlove (Dumayas of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59) did not dismiss the case and is opening the case for pretrial, we have made a very big [step]. With media covering this case and helping [us] reach the sector that’s being affected and the sector not yet addicted to this product, it’s already a very big step forward,” the activist priest said.

In Monday’s proceedings, Dumayas moved the pre-trial to April 23 to resolve the two motions filed by Philip Morris.

“Philip Morris would do everything to quash this case because it’s a very dangerous precedent. But they will have to spend so much money and pull the strings available to them [to stop this case]. All the other cases, they were successful, napa-dismiss nila [these were dismissed],” Reyes said.

Vincent, who suffered from lung cancer, filed the case months before he passed away in December 2004 at the age of 47. Reyes, who is now based in Hong Kong, and Vincent’s family pursued the complaint which was remanded by the Court of Appeals to the Makati court.

“This is exactly what we’re pointing out all these years – that cigarettes can kill. There are so many people like Vincent. He puts a face to this reality,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Despite the costs, Reyes said the case was worth fighting for as his brother wanted his story to serve as a warning to all smokers and to teens planning on taking up the vice.

“Whether this case wins or lose, we want to start a campaign for the youth enticed by smoking. Don’t start [the habit]. Cigarettes are poison,” he added.

Limpin, meanwhile, also encouraged other people to file cases against tobacco companies so these would be held liable for the adverse effects of smoking.

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