Governor Aris Aumentado has vowed that his new administration will be adopting an “anti-epal” stance, a turnaround from the previous leadership’s penchant for displaying the names and faces of the province’s two top elected officials on government project markers.
Aumentado, in his over 20-minute inaugural address delivered last week, assured that images and names of elected officials under his administration will no longer be emblazoned on government-funded projects.
“As promised, this administration will be adopting a strong anti-epal stance—no more provincial government programs and projects plastered with faces or names of elected leaders,” Aumentado said.
“We are not gods to be adored. We are servants at the beck and call of our masters, the public. When a public service is done, the master public must increase and the servant decreases,” he added.
The newly sworn-in governor’s policy comes after the heavily criticized display of the names and images of former governor Art Yap and former vice governor Rene Relampagos on government project markers and paraphernalia.
Photos of the duo had seen on identification cards of BALA (barangay livestock aide) workers, post-typhoon donations including generator sets, congratulatory and condolatory messages, and various project markers including that of the national government-funded COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Yap, in a previous statement, did not deny having printed photos of himself on government-funded projects saying that he did it for accountability.
According to Yap, it was acceptable for his name and face to be displayed on the materials as he is a public official.
“My name and my face are not personal. I belong to the people as a public official,” Yap said in an earlier press briefing.
Last year, former Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Director General Jeremiah Belgica warned government officials not to print their faces on government documents as the election season draws near.
“These pictures of politicians on permits and licenses affect the cost of printing that the applicants are shouldering,” Belgica said.
There was also a provision inserted in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) dubbed “anti-epal” which disallows politicians to emblazon their faces, names, or logos on projects to be funded by the 2021 budget.
“Taxpayers, not politicians, fund the projects and programs. Their names or photos have no place there,” said Sen. Grace Poe who introduced the provision into the GAA.
However, Yap and Relampagos flouted this provision as seen in multiple tarpaulins of the “Resbakuna” campaign, the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program, that displayed their faces and names.
The nationwide anti-vaccination drive is partly funded through a P2.5-billion allocation for the Department of Health (DOH) under the 2021 GAA.
There have been multiple efforts to pass an “anti-epal” bill both at the House of Representatives and Senate but the measure has yet to successfully pass into law.
In 2016, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers filed the “anti-epal” bill. He refiled it in 2019, but the measure did not go beyond the committee level.
The late Senator Miriam Santiago also filed a similar bill in 2011. (A. Doydora)