MANILA – The word "epal" has long been used by Filipinos to describe a person who does unnecessary things, to the point of being annoying, just to grab attention.
While most of the times, people use this word lightly with friends, the word gained new meaning—one attached to politicians—as time went by.
Bayan Mo, i-Patrol Mo (BMPM) head Rowena Paraan describes "epal politicians" or "epalitikos" as government officials using government resources or their power/influence to promote their political interests.
"May nagsasabi na hindi naman pera ng gobyerno 'yung ginamit, ‘yun daw ay idinonate, pero ‘yung mailagay mo ‘yung mukha mo dun, ginamit mo ‘yung posisyon mo," Paraan said.
The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2010-101, Decree 1445 and and COA Circular 2013-004 all say that the display and and/or a fixture of the picture, image, motto , logo, color motif, initials or other symbols or graphic representation associated with the top leadership of the project proponent or implementing agency, unit, office on signboards, is considered unnecessary.
Even before the election period began, there were already a lot of epalitikos spotted and reported to BMPM by the public.
Reported "epal" acts include posting of photos or names of politicians on government vehicles, project banners, streamers, street signs and senior citizen cards.
The Comelec earlier said that their hands are tied on the issue of politicians engaging in early campaigning before the campaign period.
"The law on campaign expenses only starts during the campaign period. Any expenses before that period will not be counted against them and the Comelec cannot do anything," said Bautista in an earlier interview with ABS-CBN News.
"Ang problema po ng Comelec dito sa premature campaining e may butas ang batas... In fact, ang problema, wala pong 'premature campaigning," he added, citing a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the disqualification case against Mayor Rosalinda Penere of Sta. Monica Surigao del Sur back in 2009.
READ: Why Comelec has hands tied vs 'premature campaigning'
While the Comelec admitted that their hands are tied when it comes to the issue of "epal" politicians, the citizens' hands are not.
BMPM is encouraging the public to be extra vigilant of epalitikos, especially now that the campaign period has started for national candidates (president, vice president, senator, party-list groups).
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already rolled out a list of prohibited forms of election propaganda for those running for national positions.
READ: List of do's and don'ts in 2016 polls
BMPM is encouraging the public to report campaign violators and epalitikos—not only those who are running for national positions, but also those who are running for elective local positions.
Report banners, posters, streamers, billboards, and even food packs bearing the names and faces of politicians and government officials through the BMPM function of the Comelec Halalan app, which is available for both iOS and Android users.
People can also report it through BMPM's Facebook Page, Twitter account (@BayanMo), or e-mail: [email protected].
Paraan said it is important for citizens to join the campaign against "epalitikos."
"Sadly the public has gotten so used to names and faces (of politicians) in fiesta tarps, project signages, ambulances, etc., that they no longer react. BMPM wants the outrage against abuse of power and public funds to return. 'Epalism' should be stopped," she said.