Comelec stops CCT release during barangay polls
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has stopped the release of funds for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the government during the campaign period for the Oct. 28 barangay elections.
The Comelec, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) also agreed yesterday to penalize candidates who would be proven to have used the CCT program to gain undue advantage in the polls.
Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca said the law prohibits the release of public funds during the campaign period.
She said that starting Oct 18, there would be no more releases for the CCT program, which covers the health and education of 3.9 million families nationwide.
“Within the 10-day campaign period, those releases that have yet to start will not be allowed,” Padaca said.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the DSWD would just complete the release of CCT funds prior to the campaign period.
“We will begin the payouts now, so that it will be finished in time for the prohibited period,” she said.
Soliman also said the DSWD and DILG want to avoid a repeat of what happened in the May polls, wherein several candidates used the CCT program to advance their political interests.
“Let me make it clear that only the DSWD has the right to remove or include families in the beneficiary list, and not any local candidate,” Soliman added.
Possible election offense cases
The Comelec is also studying the possibility of filing election offense cases against individuals proven to have engaged in vote buying, Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said.
Moreover, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the poll body is toying with the idea of filing election offense cases against prospective candidates who displayed campaign materials ahead of the campaign period.
In a press briefing, the Comelec chief complained that “epal” potential candidates are skirting around the lack of law against premature campaigning, so the Comelec is looking for ways to go after these individuals.
“The campaign period would be starting on Oct. 18 up to 26 but this early, many campaign materials are coming out because of the epal. They are not yet candidates, but they are already posting their tarpaulins,” Brillantes said.
“We want to see whether we can use premature campaigning (to go after them). The candidates or would-be candidates are abusing the lack of campaigning (policy).”
“We will be monitoring the epal (posters) and then when they file their COCs (certificates of candidacy), we’ll try to go after them,” he added.
The Comelec is also studying the possibility of issuing a resolution regulating the posting of campaign materials outside the campaign period.
Premature campaigning had been decriminalized by the Supreme Court in its November 2009 decision on the Comelec vs Penera case. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Cecille Suerte Felipe