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Lawyer: Epal politicians can be charged with graft

MANILA, Philippines - Politicians and government officials planning to run in 2016 can be penalized for campaigning in the guise of advertising or promoting their   offices on print, radio and television commercials.  In a statement, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Office of the Ombudsman under Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, could pursue criminal actions against them for entering into contracts or transactions that are manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.

 “For there is evident bad faith committed by these public officials in using public funds for such transactions since there is no benefit that could be derived by the people from the millions of pesos spent for the said advertisements which are clearly intended only to promote the images of these officials for election purposes,” he said.

Presidential Decree 1445, the State Audit Code of the Philippines, provides that all resources of the government shall be safeguarded against loss or waste through illegal or improper disposition, Macalintal said.

 Section 3(c) of RA 3019 also prohibits public officers from performing official duties in “evident bad faith” which cause “undue injury to the government.”

Macalintal said the Supreme Court (SC) had   ruled that “unnecessary” expenditures are those that are “not dictated by the demands of good government” or such expenses that “could be dispensed with without loss or damage to property.”  

  “Extravagant” expenditures are those “incurred without restraint, judiciousness and economy and exceed the bounds of propriety,” the SC said.

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Macalintal said: “Surely, such unconscionable expenses exceeded the bounds of propriety as they are unnecessary and could be dispensed with because, even without them, the operation of their respective offices will not be paralyzed.”

It would “not be difficult to pursue such cases against these ‘epal’ officials since the facts could not be disputed in that the transactions are grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government because the funds were irregularly, unnecessarily and unconscionably used to the advantage of these government officials who are eyeing elective posts in the 2016 elections,”  he said.

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