Village bets told: Don’t be ‘epal’

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Potential candidates in the Oct. 28 barangay polls were criticized yesterday for displaying their propaganda materials ahead of the official campaign period on Oct. 18-26.

In his Twitter account @jabjimenez, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said: “Dear Barangay Elections 2013 hopefuls: Huwag nga kayong epal! … Masyado pang maaga. (Don’t be epal … It’s too early).”

By epal, the Comelec is referring to potential candidates posting promotion posters and streamers before the campaign period.

Jimenez said barangays are smaller in scale so hopefuls do not have to be an “epal” to woo voters.

“Ang liit ng barangay. Pwede ka namang umikot araw-araw para magpakita ng tamang gawain. Bakit epal (Barangays are small. You can go around everyday to show what you can do for them. Why be epal?),” he said.

A month before elections, propaganda materials of potential candidates for barangay posts have started sprouting in major thoroughfares nationwide.

Jimenez has also urged the public to be vigilant against “epal” candidates.

“Dear friends: ang #kontraepal campaign ay hindi pang isang election lang. Let’s keep the candidates aware that they are being watched,” he said.

Earlier, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they are powerless against premature campaigning due to the Supreme Court (SC) ruling decriminalization the practice in the case of Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte Mayor Rosalinda Penera.

The SC ruled that a person can be considered a candidate – and therefore covered by campaign restriction – only after he or she has filed his or her certificate of candidacy, and when the campaign period has started.

35 areas of concern

In Negros Occidental, 35 barangays were tagged as “areas of concern” in the barangay elections on Oct. 28.

Bacolod City election officer Mavil Majarucon-Sia said five of the city’s 61 barangays are considered areas of concern.

These are barangays Granada, Cabug, Vista Alegre, Handumanan and Mansilingan.

Glenn Guzman, Department of the Interior and Local Government director in Bacolod, said they are monitoring these barangays.

Bacolod, the capital of Negros Occidental, is outside the legislative jurisdiction of the province, being a highly urbanized city.

Outside of Bacolod, of the 601 barangays across Negros Occidental, the military classified 30 as areas of concern.

At the Provincial Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center meeting at last Saturday, Col. Jon Aying, Army 303rd Infantry Brigade commander based in Murcia, said these 30 barangays are “areas of concern,” not “hot spots.”

“We just want to ensure that the people can vote freely and will not be under threat or intimidation by the rebels,” he said.

Aying said these 30 barangays in the hinterlands are under the influence of the New People’s Army.

“This does not mean that the entire barangays are affected by the NPA, only some of their sitios,” he said.

Aying refused to name the 30 barangays, but that they are located in the first, fifth, and sixth districts.

“Our efforts shall focus on the armed groups moving around trying to influence the outcome of the election,” he said.

They expect less tension in the barangay elections compared to the May local and national polls, Aying said.

Provincial elections supervisor Jessie Suarez said the Comelec will not lower their guard in ensuring a clean and orderly barangay elections.

COA warns of medicine distribution

The Commission on Audit (COA) has warned that allowing barangay officials to distribute medicine to residents can be dangerous.

In a report on a Camarines Norte town released last month, the COA said: “The prescription issued by the nurses and midwives is still under the authority/supervision of the municipal health officers.”

State auditors said only qualified health professionals or personnel must be allowed to give away prescription drugs or multivitamins.

“Some medicine procured such as Glibenclamide tablet and Metoprolol should be dispensed by a licensed physician,” state auditors said.

“In no case shall a punong barangay dispense any medicine even if it was multivitamins only.”

The COA report uncovered possible irregularities in the buying of more than P14.4 million worth of medicine in a Capalonga, Camarines Norte last year.

State auditors raised questions ranging from bidding issues to actual delivery and distribution after finding that the purchase order for the procurement of medicine was awarded and paid without documents in violation of law. – With Danny Dangcalan, Michael Punongbayan

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