Lawmakers see anti-epal campaign behind low awareness of their projects


The low awareness of the public on projects implemented by lawmakers is due to intensified ant-epal (credit grabbing) campaign, House members said on Monday.

Reps. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list, Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao province, Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers’ party-list expressed such sentiments on the day that a Pulse Asia survey revealed that only 39 percent of Filipinos are aware of any program implemented by a lawmaker.

In contrast, more than half of the respondents or 54 percent were not aware of any congressional initiative on social or infrastructure services.

“Many lawmakers do not place their names on infrastructure projects contrary to reports that several lawmakers resort to being epal. But as for my district, the people are aware, especially the barangay officials, that most of the projects implemented are through congressional intervention coursed through the proper budget process,” Ungab, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said in a text message.

“It’s a damn if you do, damn if you don’t situation. If a lawmaker actively implements a project, he will be accused of usurping the powers of the executive. If he advertises it to the public, he will be called an epal,” Batocabe pointed out.

It was Sen. Miriam Santiago who filed an Anti-Epal measure or an Act Prohibiting Public Officers from Claiming Credit through Signage Announcing a Public Works Project in November 2011—a measure that would ban politicians from adorning the billboards of government projects with their faces and names. The Palace has expressed support of such measure, even if it wasn’t passed into law.

Ilagan, for her part, argued that such lack of awareness is not surprising, considering the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam that benefited the bogus entities ran by Janet Lim-Napoles during the last 10 years.

PDAF, also known as pork barrel, is the P70 million annual discretionary fund of the House members which they can tap to attend to their constituents’ needs such as social services and infrastructure projects.

“As for the good pork used by honest legislators, these lawmakers usually do not drumbeat about this. But as for the ghost projects with ghost recipients, or those high jacked by the non-government organizations of Napoles, how can the public be aware of them?,” Ilagan pointed out.

For Baguilat, awareness cannot be measured on a national scale, considering that each House member represent certain district or sector.

“That’s [low awareness]is surprising. It could be the Anti-Epal drive, or that the lawmakers only chose to fund projects leading to selected constituencies or to their own farms [in the case of farm-to-market roads],” Baguilat added.

But for Ilagan and House Deputy Minority Leader Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list, the said Pulse Asia survey is a solid ground to abolish the pork barrel.

The P25 billion PDAF allocation under the proposed P2.268 trillion budget has already been realigned to various government agencies such as the Commission on Higher Education, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Public Works and Highways, among others.

“Perhaps lawmakers and other politicians should take this to mean that pork-funded projects are not that crucial to success in elections after all,” Tinio said in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI


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