MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday it has decided to exempt urgent aid distribution like fuel subsidies from the social services' disbursement ban currently in place for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
"Hinihintay natin 'yung manghihingi ng exemption para sa fuel subsidy sapagkat kaagad nating aaprubahan 'yan (We are just waiting for the exemption requests [of agencies] for the fuel subsidy because we will urgently approve it)," Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia said at a press conference.
"Kailangang-kailangan 'yan ng kababayan natin lalo na nung mga namamasada (Our fellow Filipinos badly need that, especially our drivers)," he said.
Under Comelec Resolution 10944, the use of public funds for social services and development will be prohibited from Sept. 15 to 30 in relation to the BSKE on Oct. 30.
Garcia, however, assured that the election regulations will not hinder the needed distribution of other urgent cash aids to the public.
Under Memorandum Circular 2023-038 or the Guidelines on the Implementation of Fuel Subsidy Program, around 1.36 million beneficiaries are expected to receive fuel subsidies including public utility vehicle (PUV) operators, tricycle drivers and delivery service riders.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) started its aid distribution on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) are also set to distribute fuel subsidies to qualified delivery riders and tricycle drivers.
Garcia also reported the poll body's approval to exempt the Department of Labor and Employment-Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (DOLE-TUPAD) cash-for-work program, but with strict requirements.
"Sinabi natin ang mamamahagi dapat 'yung mismong taga-Department of Labor at the same time hanggat maaari hindi sa level ng barangay, kundi sa level ng munisipyo lang ang pamimigay (We told them that only DOLE [personnel] can conduct the distribution, at the same time it should not be on barangay levels but in municipal levels)," he said.
Comelec Spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco, meanwhile, said areas under a state of calamity are also exempted.
However, Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) will not be exempted due to its barangay certification requirement, which may be used or politicized by incumbent barangay officials, he said.
On Tuesday, the Comelec approved the request of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to allow the nationwide release of cash aid to rice retailers affected by the rice price ceilings. (PNA)