MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has exempted fuel subsidies for farmers and fisherfolk under the Department of Agriculture from the election spending ban from March 25 to May 8, 2022.
"We exempted, we granted the petition of the Department of Agriculture on the different programs and projects more specifically the fuel discount to farmers and fisherfolk." Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said in a press conference.
The DA sought exemption for its Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program, Fuel discount to Farmers and Fisherfolk program, the rice competitiveness enhancement program, the National Rice Program Seed, Fertilizer, Machinery and Equipment Distribution, National Rice Program, National Corn Program, and Special Area for Agricultural Development Program.
"The Commission, after evaluating the submission of the petitioner, hereby grants the said projects, programs and activities subject to submission of the amount to be disbursed during the 45 day ban which shall be the proportional amount required for the covered period as against the annual budget," the resolution said.
The poll body requires the DA to comply with conditions under Comelec Resolution 10747 and Commission on Audit Circular 2013-004.
Likewise, the poll body granted the exemption sought by the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) for the distribution of its food and non-food items procured before the election ban.
Food items valued at over P12.56 million consist of rice, canned tuna, canned meat, chocolate powdered drinks and coffee. Non-food items worth over P26.6 million consist of blankets, mosquito net, bath soaps, detergent bar, toothpaste, toothbrush, slippers for adults and children, sanitary napkins, shampoo, adult diapers.
The exemption was also granted subject to the conditions in Comelec Resolution 10747.
The poll body requires that the distribution should not be used by any candidate, his or her souse, family member within the second civil degree or affinity or consanguinity, political parties, party list organizations and their nominees to further their candidacy.
It also states that the entitlement of the benefits shall not be dependent on support for and endorsement of candidates, party list organizations and political parties.
Finally, candidates, party list nominees, their spouses and members of their family within the 2nd civil degree are strictly prohibited from participating directly or indirectly in the distribution of cash, goods, or merchandise for scholarships, assistance for burial, healthcare, calamity and other similar programs.
Another exemption was also granted to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) for its Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund Seed Program.
"After due notice and hearing, the Commission resolves that the program deserves continuity, not disrupt the supply of rice in the country and, at the same time protect our national food security," the resolution said.
The poll body also said it cannot control when farmers are in need to plant.
Separately, the poll body also exempted the Department of Labor and Employment's Government Internship Program, Job Start Program Philippines, Special Program for Employment of Students, DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program, DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program, COVID 19 Adjustment Measures Program, Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong, and DOLE Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program.
In granting the exemption, the poll body cited the urgency in the continuation of the programs as these are essential in poverty alleviation and the pandemic response.
It added that these programs have long been established and are continuing in nature. It also favored the safeguards in place to insulate the programs from being exploited in partisan politics.
The exemption also extends to partner agencies and local government units.