Brillantes: Stop relief distribution during election campaign
MANILA, Philippines—To avoid charges of politicking, the Department of Social Welfare and Development should suspend relief operations in disaster areas and conflict zones during the campaign period for local elections, Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Tuesday.
Brillantes said the DSWD should put on hold its relief operations to prevent local politicians from taking advantage of the relief distribution to further their election campaigns.
“So that there won’t be any risk, they could suspend it for 45 days. That is my suggestion. I don’t know how the other commissioners feel but they could stop it so that we won’t have any problem,” Brillantes said after a public hearing on the topic.
During the hearing, DSWD officials asked the Comelec en banc to allow them to continue with their relief operations in areas devastated by typhoon “Pablo,” other disaster areas, and in places where there are armed conflict.
On the other hand, they informed the election body that the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which provides P1,800 to 3.8 million families every month, would be suspended during the campaign period for local positions, which begins on March 29.
“The problem here is that this is in the barangay (village) level. When the campaign period starts, all the politicians would be there and everyone would be talking politics,” Brillantes said.
“It’s very difficult to isolate these good programs from politics. It would be very difficult to proceed with these programs without politics rearing it’s ugly head,” he added.
In a letter to the Comelec, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman asked the Comelec to allow social welfare programs in disaster zones and conflict areas to continue although the Omnibus Election Code provides that these should be turned over to the Philippine Red Cross during the campaign period.
“We believe that the Red Cross may not have sufficient resources to immediately and adequately respond to calamities and disasters that may occur during the election period,” Soliman said.
“Given these, we believe that the DSWD would be in the best position and should thus be allowed to respond to any calamity and disaster that may unfortunately occur during the election period,” she added.
Soliman also noted that PRC chairman Richard Gordon is a senatorial candidate in the May elections. Brillantes asked DSWD officials during the hearing if Gordon had already resigned from the PRC. They replied that Gordon was still PRC chair.