MANILA, Philippines—Efforts to penalize politicians who habitually plaster their names and faces on government projects funded with taxpayers’ money finally gained a foothold in the Senate with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s sponsorship speech on the so-called “anti-epal” bill before the chamber adjourned earlier this month.
Committee Report 443 prohibits the “practice of affixing name, initials, logo, or image of a public official to a signage announcing a proposed, ongoing or completed public works projects, as well as installing signage announcing the maintenance, rehabilitation, construction of public works crediting individual public officer, bearing his or her image.”
The report consolidates separate bills filed by Sens. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Francis Escudero.
The term “epal” is street lingo for a credit-grabber. In this case, it refers to a politician who claims a government project would not have materialized had it not been for his personal efforts or, worse, his personal funds.
Trillanes, chairman of the Senate civil service committee, said the bill required the Department of Public Works Highways “in coordination” with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Metro Manila Development Authority to take down billboards and posters announcing the construction, repair or rehabilitation of pubic works projects bearing the faces of politicians.
“This measure was (triggered by) the prevalent unethical practice among our public officials who affix their names and/or pictures to projects funded or facilitated through their office, despite the fact that these were funded using the taxpayers’ money,” Trillanes said.
The senator explained that the practice of heralding a government project while giving a politician unnecessary credit “in a way promotes corruption among our officials and projects a wrong sense of accomplishment among the constituency.”
Trillanes’ pet bill provides for the imposition of administrative charges against the designated officers of agencies who will refuse to and comply with the law.
His committee report does not specify penalties to be imposed against the epal themselves.
A check with the Senate website showed that Santiago’s bill would impose a prison term between six and 12 months and immediate perpetual disqualification of the offender.
Escudero’s version, meanwhile, calls for a one-year prison term and a fine between P100,000 and P1 million for the first offense. A recidivist politician who commits a second offense would be permanently disqualified from public office.
“With this measure, it is hoped that our public officers will serve with utmost responsibility, integrity, honesty and efficiency,” Trillanes said.