‘Anti-epal’ bill sure to pass –Sen. Sotto

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02:53 AM November 9th, 2011

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By: Christian V. Esguerra, November 9th, 2011 02:53 AM

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III. FILE PHOTO

Bet on the “anti-epal” bill being passed by the Senate next year.

“There’s no doubt about it—it will be passed,” Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone Tuesday.

“It’s a good bill and I think majority, if not all, of the senators would support it,” he said.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had filed Senate Bill No. 1967—An Act Prohibiting Public Officers from Claiming Credit through Signage Announcing a Public Works Project.

Sotto is confident the bill would face no serious opposition among his colleagues, saying “we’re not into credit-grabbing anyway.”

The measure would punish public officials who splatter their names and faces on billboards announcing public works projects funded with taxpayer money.

It has come to be known as the “anti-epal bill,” referring to the colloquial terms for people who love to be in the spotlight (mapapel) or are thick-skinned and insensitive (makapal).

“It’s more of a problem at the local level,” Sotto said. “In my case, I can honestly say I don’t do it. I give out my (priority development assistance) fund to local executives and that’s it. I don’t ask them to put my name on any projects in return. In fact, I don’t encourage it at all.”

SB 1967 slaps a prison term of between six months and one year on government officials whose names or images are posted on “signage announcing a proposed or ongoing public works project.”

The bill only allows for the name, image or logo of the local or national government agency handling the project to be on billboards. The measure is pending in committee.

Sotto said the bill would be formally tackled in January because the Senate would be focused on the 2012 national budget for the rest of this year.

“It’s not a difficult bill so it should pass by next year,” he said. “I just don’t know the sentiments of the members of the House of Representatives on this. But for the senators, there’s no problem.”

Santiago’s bill drew widespread attention after the Inquirer published a story on it on November 4. As of Tuesday, the INQUIRER.net story had been “shared” on Facebook at least 29,000 times, on top of 11,000 “recommendations.”

The story also made the rounds of the microblogging site Twitter 1,225 times, and was discussed on other sites such as LinkedIn, Reddit, Tumblr, Digg, StumbleUpon, Blogger and Delicious.

Comments on the bill were generally passionate and supportive. They also expressed collective dismay over politicians grabbing credit for projects they never actually funded.

“I am in absolute agreement with this bill. It’s the taxpayers’ money and [it is] the politician’s duty to provide such services. No need for a publicity grab,” went one comment.

Read another: “A lot of corrupt politicians and opportunist politicos won’t be happy with this bill. It’s true the money comes from taxpayers… not self-serving, do-nothing, corrupt politicians.”

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