On the Anti-Epal Bill: towards promoting ethics in governance

17 11 2011

NEWS COMMENTARY by Paula Bianca Lapuz

Among the first steps taken by President Noynoy Aquino is to have all signage bearing his name and face removed. He likewise directed his cabinet secretaries to instruct offices to refrain from crediting themselves for publicly funded projects (Manila Bulletin 2010) (Official Gazette of the Office of the President 2010).

Sen. Miriam Santiago follows through on this move by introducing Senate Bill 1967 or the “Anti-Signage of Public Works Act”, now tagged by the media as the “Anti-Epal Bill.” The bill seeks to penalize public officials who include their names and faces in billboards of projects financed through taxpayers’ money.

While the bill prohibits public officials from blatantly taking “undue” credit for projects and services which they ought to accomplish and deliver, it still allows the inclusion of government agencies’ logos and names in the signage.

Both Malacañang and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines expressed their support for Santiago’s bill (Poblete 2011) (Uy 2011). CBCP noted that the bill adheres to Bible teachings which tell us to be discreet about our good deeds, for it is God, who shall reward us. The palace similarly lauds the proposal, which complements the earlier directive of President Aquino.

Analysis

The Senator is spot on in saying that putting politicians’ names and faces on signage are unethical and gratuitous, as it reinforces the culture of patron-client relationships, especially in the rural areas where poverty rates are high.

The bill, however, is limited to signage of public works projects. It is a good initiative, but what is the added value? The Local Government Code, Chapter 2, Section 13-D prevents government officers from naming any public infrastructure and/or street after any living person. But this has been constantly violated, and many public hospitals, schools and other structures are still named after politicians. In the end, what is the difference when their names can still be attached to the said projects long after they are gone?

What if instead of using signage, politicians would resort to flyers and other materials for promoting “their” projects along with their names and faces? The bill is commendable, but its loopholes should be thoroughly reviewed so that no one can circumvent the law. Efforts like this can be amusing to the public, but perhaps people get away with rules precisely because the public thinks that they are nothing but amusing. #

Works cited:

Manila Bulletin. Manila Bulletin. August 13, 2010. http://www.mb.com.ph/node/272139/dilg-ban (accessed November 08, 2011).

Official Gazette of the Office of the President. August 08, 2010. http://www.gov.ph/2010/08/08/dpwh-department-order-no-37/ (accessed November 08, 2011).

Poblete, J. P. D. Business World. November 06, 2011. http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Palace-backing-bill-banning-project-credit&id=41177 (accessed November 09, 2011).

Uy, Jocelyn R. Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 08, 2011. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/90127/sen-santiago%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98anti-epal%E2%80%99-bill-backed (accessed November 09, 2011).

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