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Robredo bans pols’ faces, names in anti-poverty program

While Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s “anti-epal” bill still has to go through the legislative grind, Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo has done it administratively, issuing a memorandum circular banning display of pictures and names of government officials in posters and streamers announcing the government’s anti-poverty program.
It’s “in the spirit of good governance, transparency and accountability”, Robredo said in Memorandum Circular 2012-44 dated last March 6, copies of which were sent to provincial governors, city and town mayors, DILG regional directors and others concerned.
Santiago’s bill, “Act Prohibiting Public Officers from Claiming Credit through Signage Announcing a Public Works Project”, would prohibit public servants – elected or appointed – from placing their names and pictures on billboards announcing infrastructure projects, making it appear as if they had funded the same.
In filing the bill, Santiago said this practice promotes “a culture of political patronage and corruption, aside from it being pointless and highly unethical”.
A rarity here but a common practice of traditional politicians in other parts of the country, the imposition of their names and smiling faces on the public becomes a daily occurrence, through side markings of official vehicles owned by a barangay, a town, a city or a province.
The point, apparently, is to promote the image of the politician as an effective public servant, a name-recall campaign strategy for the next election.
“The display of photos/pictures and names of government officials in posters/streamers in the announcements of CCT or 4Ps-related activities are hereby prohibited,” Robredo ordered.
CCT and 4Ps refer to the “Conditional Cash Transfer” or “Pantgawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the national government for poverty reduction through the health, education, social welfare and local government departments.
Aside from the CCT, features of the anti-poverty thrust “meant to improve the quality of life of the poorest of the poor family in the barangay” include “Kalusugang Pangkalahatan” (Health for All), “Community Health Team Mobilization Program” and “Water for the Waterless LGU Program”, Robredo said.
He directed all DILG regional directors through their field officers to monitor implementation of the “anti-epal” circular and to submit their reports to his office, attention the Office of the Undersecretary for Local Government.
“Epal” is slang for scene stealer or attention grabber.
Santiago’s bill is supported by Malacanang and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action. It is aimed at stopping government officials, mostly politicians, from grabbing credit for government projects being implemented through taxes and other fund sources and not from the pockets of those claiming credit for the same.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte last year said “the President was very clear on that from early on…that he did not like the practice”.
“Those in the government should give their total dedicated service to the people (and) the services they give should not serve their own personal interest,” noted Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of CBCP-NASSA. – Ramon Dacawi.

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