Comelec inks deal to spare gov't dole outs from electioneering

RG Cruz and Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2022 10:00 PM

Residents in Brgy. Manggahan ABS-CBN News/file
Residents in Brgy. Manggahan, Pasig City receive food packs from local government unit along with the cash aid under the DSWD's social amelioration program on August 12, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday signed a tripartite memorandum of agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to launch an "Anti-Epal Campaign" for Halalan 2022 to protect the government’s flagship aid program from being used in the election campaigns.

The 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a conditional cash transfer program benefitting the poorest of the poor, who may include potential voters.

In 2013, the same agencies also entered into a tripartite memorandum to launch the "Bawal Ang Epal Dito" campaign to curb the interference of national and local candidates in the conduct of payouts for the 4Ps beneficiaries during the campaign period. 

The agreement contemplates the reexamination and reimplementation of the 2013 Tripartite Memorandum of Agreement as well as the creation of additional guidelines or parameters in tackling the prevention of political intervention or interference of candidates in the program.

Likewise, the new deal covers the introduction of additional initiatives in the promotion of political neutrality in the government service. 

Under the agreement, the DSWD shall identify the different social welfare programs commonly and repeatedly abused and exploited by political candidates.

“Signing this Tripartite MOA will send a strong message: it is of paramount importance that we curb partisanship in the undertaking of government projects during election period. Government funds may not be used for any election campaign activity. Fairness of election dictates that the massive government machinery must not be used to advance a certain candidate to the detriment of the welfare of those who really need it," said Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista echoed Pangarungan. 

"We are once again faced with a challenge that our programs, services and sectors that we serve might become the subject of inclusive acts by political candidates... No program funds can be used to advance any political ambition, discretion for any given time," Bautista assured.

The campaign period for local candidates formally begins Friday, March 25.