MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant and Vice President Leni Robredo is hoping the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would allow her office to continue its highly-praised coronavirus relief initiatives even during the start of the official campaign period.
Asked by reporters in Makati City what her long-term plans are for the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) free mobile antigen testing service Swab Cab, Robredo said she is seeking the Comelec’s permission to keep running her pandemic response projects even when the campaign period for national candidates is in full swing by February 8.
The OVP relaunched the Swab Cab project in the first week of January due to the unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant.
Apart from Swab Cab, the Vice President said the OVP is also hoping the Comelec would allow the continued operations of its free teleconsultation service Bayanihan E-Konsulta and its drive-through vaccination drive Vaccine Express.
“Humingi kami ng exemption from Comelec na ‘yung mga COVID-related na mga ginagawa ng office, payagan kami to continue even after February 8, lalo na kasi surge ngayon,” Robredo said on Tuesday, January 18, on the sidelines of the Swab Cab operations in the country’s premiere business district.
(We’re seeking an exemption from Comelec so that the COVID-related projects that our office is doing would be allowed to continue even after February 8, especially now that we are experiencing a surge.)
“Ito talaga ‘yung marami kaming ginagawa ngayon para makatulong sa surge. So sana mabigay ‘yung exemption. Sumulat na kami early this month. Sumulat na kami to ask for exemption, so sana ma-grant,” Robredo said.
(These are the things that we are doing to help address the surge. So I hope an exemption would be granted. We wrote a letter early this month. Hopefully it would be granted.)
Rappler has requested from Robredo’s office a copy of her letter to Comelec. This story will be updated once the copy is furnished to us.
The Omnibus Election Code generally prohibits the use of government offices’ budgets to boost the campaign of candidates.
Section 13 of Comelec’s resolution on using public funds during the election period also requires government offices running social welfare projects and service to file a petition for issuance of Certificate of Exception for the continued operations of these initiatives.
Section 14(e) of the same resolution bars candidates and their relatives from within the second civil degree of affinity or consanguinity from directly or indirectly participating in the distribution of cash, goods, or merchandise for scholarships, assistance for burial, healthcare, calamity, and other similar programs during the official campaign period.
The Vice President has long been praised for running quick and efficient pandemic relief drives since the COVID-19 crisis hit the Philippines in early 2020. She usually brings these projects to local government units willing to partner with the OVP.
Robredo is also, by far, the presidential aspirant who has released the most comprehensive platform on her plans to address the pandemic and help provide jobs for Filipinos should she win her bid for Malacañang in the May elections. – Rappler.com
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