The priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” has been exempted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from the 45-day ban on the disbursement of public funds.
The poll body in Resolution No. 9660 has decided to exempt the use of the PDAF by congressmen on various programs and projects in their respective districts despite the ban taking effect on March 29.
“The release, disbursement or expenditures of the PDAF and other state funds are allowed,” read the resolution.
Certain conditions, however, must be met before PDAF use is allowed.
The conditions are that projects/programs sought to be implemented during the ban were established prior and was duly reported to the Commission on Audit (COA); in no instance shall the implementation be used as an opportunity by any candidate, family member, and political parties to further their candidacy through their personal appearance in such events, posting of campaign propaganda materials containing their names/slogans/initials/images; support for candidates/party-list being made as a condition for the entitlement of the benefits of the project/program; and should the program involve cash or goods distribution for scholarship, burial assistance, healthcare, or calamity, the candidates and their family members are prohibited from participating directly or indirectly.
The seven page resolution said these conditions are subject to the evaluation of the Comelec Law Department sitting as the Campaign Finance Unit and grant Certificates of Exemption.
The Comelec said such a resolution was released due to the requests they have received from members of the Lower House asking for exemption to the prohibition.
The Omnibus Election Code states that it shall be prohibited to release public funds inside the 45-day period before Election Day.
Violation of the said rule constitutes an election offense, which carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office.
In the same resolution, the Comelec also said public works projects undertaken by contractors through public bidding or negotiated contract and were awarded before March 29 shall also be exempted from the ban.
Also exempted are emergency works “necessitated by the occurrence of a public calamity, but limited to the restoration of damaged facility” as well as “ongoing public works project commenced before the campaign period of other similar projects under foreign agreements”.
The Omnibus Election Code also prohibits construction as well as delivery of materials for public works inside the similar 45-day period.