Santiago files Anti-Epal Bill

By Christian V. Esguerra – If you’re not paying for the project, don’t grab credit for it. This, in essence, is the message Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is trying to convey through Senate Bill No. 1967, which is now undergoing committee deliberations.

Santiago, now busy campaigning for a seat on the International Criminal Court, argued that public officials have no business claiming credit for projects funded by taxpayers’ money.

“It is a prevalent practice among public officers, whether elected or appointed, to append their names on public works projects which were either funded or facilitated through their office,” she said in the bill’s explanatory note. “This is unnecessary and highly unethical.”

Santiago’s bill slaps a jail term of between six months and one year on any public official who would put or have his name or image affixed on a “signage announcing a proposed or ongoing public works project.”

The prohibition would also cover “maintenance, rehabilitation, and construction” projects with sign boards crediting a particular public official for them.

The bill allows only the name, image or logo of an agency, department or local government handling or implementing a particular project.

Santiago argued that the practice of public officials claiming credit for a project “promotes a culture of political patronage and corruption.”

She said such a system also “diminishes the importance that the public needs to place on supporting government officials, not because of their popularity, but because of their essential role in policy determination, whether on the local or national level.”
“Secondly, it diminishes the concept of continuity in good governance in the mind of the public,” she said.

If the bill eventually becomes a law, the Department of Public Works and Highways, in coordination with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, would have three months from the effectivity of the measure to remove “all existing signage” violating its provisions.

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