MANILA, Philippines - The anti-'epal' campaign, a movement aimed at ushering positive change along the lines of President Aquino's "Daang Matuwid" policy, is fast catching on with netizens.
"People started very slowly at first, then we got media coverage," said campaign founder Vince Lazatin, executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Network on [email protected]
"Right now we have 22,000 likes and everyday people are coming in posting pictures."
"One guy from Pampanga asked if he could start the campaign in Pampanga. I said: 'Go' so he started it."
Today, the campaign has 49 chapters all over the Philippines including Bohol, Batangas, Laguna, Pangasinan.
"Now people are awake. So iyang mga pulitiko na yan maghanda sila because now the time is so ripe and the people are so angry," added actress and advocate Mae Paner.
"Hindi naman namin ginagawa ito para mapahiya sila e, nakikita namin na umeefect at may nagbabago so sa akin ang real gauge is na makita na yung taumbayan e they will take it on."
Organizers said they hope to empower citizens to take action against premature campaigning.
"This anti-epal movement is really empowering people to take back their country, cities, districts from the grips of these politicians," Lazatin said.
"It has to be started by people from that district we are here to support," Paner added.
"We really want to engage everyone yung gumagawa ng batas, yang Comelec, kasi kung magtutulong-tulong lalo na ngayon na ang taong bayan handanh handa na kung gagawa sila ng malinaw na batas na ipapaimplement nila. Common poster area ito ang size, kung makita ninyo ang taong bayan at saan hindi tama pwede nyong tanggalin, tutulong na kami." Paner said.
"They can take a picture, post it, report to Comelec. There's so much we can do. We can work with Comelec. Comelec can be alerted, at least they know where these things are happening," Lazatin added.
They said the campaign is also a wake up call to credit-hungry politicians who are out to drum up votes for the upcoming polls.
"Libreng tuli, libreng kasal, libreng maluwag na paghinga at nagbibigay ng nebulizer, hello," Paner said. "Si Danilo Suarez nasa cheke mukha niya colored ang laki."
"Sa Manila there's passporting day, libreng passport," Lazatin added.
"There was this huge tarpaulin of Gus Tambunting (in Paranaque) and we named him and shamed him and the following day he took it down but he replaced it with a smaller one, libreng kasalan or something," Paner pointed out.
Engaging the public
Following the success of the anti-epal campaign with netizens, Lazatin said they are now planning a forum to raise awareness on various voter-related issues.
"We want to come to the table and actually discuss issues beyond Epal, family dynasties."
"You have President Aquino who has publicly said don't put my name and face on projects, followed by the late Secretary Jesse Robredo and Secretary Rogelio Singson, so here you have a ground that is fertile for this. If this happened during the Arroyo administration, deadma. If we can start to crack here with epal and go deeper into the problem hopefully we can address other problems as well."
The campaign found its beginnings in a simple observation many have had but never acted on: the streamers bearing the names and faces of public servants who launch programs for their constituents.
"One day I was driving around Quezon City (QC) and there was this tarpaulin 'Happy Fiesta' from Vincent Belmonte from QC, kapangalan ko pa. This is enough," said Lazatin.
"I took a picture of it and I posted it on my personal Facebook page. Why don't I put a Facebook page on and have people post."
He did just that in mid-May, a page called "No More Epal" solely for the purpose, and the rest as they say is history.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is pushing for an anti-epal bill.
However, anti-epal advocates doubt that ongoing moves in Congress to push for the measure will go anywhere.
Still, this is not stopping them from fighting the scourge of premature campaigning and streamers marring the public landscape.
They now urge the poll body and lawmakers to lay down the rules and guidelines that will stop politicians from engaging in shameless self promotion.
They also dare politicians to spread the word on their work in more creative ways.