MANILA, Philippines --- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is implementing several measures that will shield its programs and activities from partisan politics during the national and local elections in May.
DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said the Anti-Epal Campaign was put into effect as an information campaign to ensure that beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program will not be used during the election period.
She said the DSWD developed this campaign after receiving feedback from beneficiaries that some electoral candidates have threatened to delist them from the program if they won’t support their candidacy. She pointed out that only the agency can delist a beneficiary if he or she is not meeting the conditions of the program.
Reinforcing the Anti-Epal Campaign is a memorandum signed by Soliman on banning images or pictures of government officials or candidates from billboards or tarpaulins used during Pantawid Pamilya activities.
Soliman also issued a directive prohibiting the participation of all DSWD field personnel in any partisan political activity and mandating the immediate suspension of violators even while being investigated.
The prohibited partisan political activities include but are not limited to threatening, intimidating or inducing any beneficiary to attend a political activity, endorsement of a political candidate to the beneficiaries, distribution of partisan political literature, and promoting any political candidate while in the performance of official duties.
Meanwhile, Soliman said that DSWD’s public works, routine and normal expenses, as well as foreign assisted projects (FAPs), are being disclosed in compliance with the regulations although these are exempted from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ban.
She said that the prohibition against the release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds for public works during the election period does not apply to ongoing pubic work projects that commenced before the campaign period.
DSWD’s ongoing public works include the construction of bunkhouses and temporary shelters in Davao Oriental for typhoon ‘Pablo’ victims; shelter assistance project in Regions 10, 11 and 12 for victims of recent disasters and areas affected by armed conflict; construction of day care centers and permanent shelters under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project; construction of permanent shelters, day care centers and livelihood centers in conflict-affected areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); and Core Shelter Project and Livelihood Assistance Program in support of the Mindanao Framework Agreement in Mindanao.
The Comelec ruled that foreign-funded projects that fall within the exemption contemplated under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code include FAPs, such as Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS), Poder Y Prosperidad para del Comunidad, and Emergency Operations Philippines-Assistance to Conflict Affected Areas in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, the prohibited activities during the election period and the safeguards adopted by the Department, such as conduct of activities will be in accordance with guidelines; non-participation of the DSWD in medical missions, forums, and political gatherings organized by a candidate, and not holding trainings for personnel of candidates.
The guidelines also list the activities that are not allowed during DSWD events such as: display of election paraphernalia; featuring names, pictures or logos of candidates in programs and handouts; distribution of flyers, leaflets and sample ballots; playing of campaign jingles; and political campaigning.