Sen. Santiago to shame vain politicians thru ‘anti-epal’ billBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Credit belongs to the taxpayers, so take those billboards with your big smiling face somewhere else.
This, in essence, is the message of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in Senate Bill No. 1967, her version of what the man in the street would call an “anti-epal” measure, as it is directed at politicians or bureaucrats who claim credit for projects built with public funds.
“Epal” is slang for “mapapel,” a Filipino term for attention grabbers, scene stealers, or people who crave a role (papel) in affairs that are not necessarily theirs to handle or decide.
The term originated from the streets to become a buzzword in political circles especially last year, when President Benigno Aquino III initiated a shame campaign against such annoying public officials.
Currently undergoing committee deliberations, Santiago’s “anti-epal” bill is formally titled “An Act Prohibiting Public Officers from Claiming Credit through Signage Announcing a Public Works Project.”
The senator maintained 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 to 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” and “promotes a culture of political patronage and corruption,” said Santiago, who is also busy campaigning for a seat as judge in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The bill imposes a jail term of between six months and one year on a public official who would have his or her name or image printed on a “signage announcing a proposed or ongoing public works project.”
The prohibition also applies to existing government projects that are undergoing maintenance or rehabilitation.
Agency name, logo OK
The bill only allows signs that bear the name, image or logo of the local or national government agency handling the project.
Santiago said allowing incumbents or appointees to grab undue credit “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 gets passed into law, the Department of Public Works and Highways, in coordination with the interior department and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, has three months from the day of the law’s effectivity to remove “all existing signages” that violate its provisions.