The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) advised the public to inform them about local officials who take advantage of social amelioration funds from the government as a form of premature campaigning.
“Kung may ganoon silang pamamaraan, i-report nila sa amin (If they do that, report it to us),” Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said in an interview with Teleradyo on Tuesday, March 30, when asked about local chief executives who put their photos on “in-kind” donations to residents in areas under lockdown.
Metro Manila and 4 nearby provinces are under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest form of lockdown, until April 4, prompting the national government to distribute P1,000 ($20.59) worth of “in-kind” assistance per person.
Densing however acknowledged there will always be local officials who exploit social amelioration funds.
“Hindi natin maiiwasan ‘yan, talagang magagamit ‘yan sa eleksyon. Hindi na ho namin makokontrol ‘yan sa baba (We cannot avoid that. The funds can be really used for the elections. We cannot control that on the ground),” Densing lamented.
But he added, “Meron na kaming desisyon sa Ombudsman na ‘yung umepal na mayor, e nakasuhan na po at nasuspinde ng Ombudsman. Puwede namin ‘yang subukan ulit sa mga opisyal.” (The Ombudsman decided before to file a complaint and suspend a mayor for using government funds for politicking. We can go to the Ombudsman again this time.)
In 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman suspended Heidee Ganigan-Chua, then-mayor of Asingan, Pangasinan, and vice mayor Carlos Lopez Jr for a year for putting their names and photos in an ambulance acquired by the local government.
Rules vs premature campaigning
There are growing concerns about premature campaigning in the run-up to the election season.
Earlier this year, public criticism arose over the proliferation of posters urging Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to run for president in 2022.
While the Omnibus Election Code penalizes premature campaigning, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said such banners do not violate election laws because Duterte-Carpio is not an official candidate yet.
Comelec said as early as 2012 that their hands are tied because the Supreme Court (SC) decriminalized premature campaigning in 2009.
Senators have sought to push for a measure that would supersede that SC ruling and restore the provision in the Omnibus Election Code which prohibited premature campaigning. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P48.58