MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has granted the request of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to suspend several local officials during the election period.
In a memorandum dated September 13, Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia approved the recommendation of the agency’s Law Department to allow the suspension of Clarin, Bohol Mayor Eugeniano Ibarra; San Simon, Pampanga Mayor Abundio Punsalan Jr.; Tabuk, Kalinga Mayor Darwin Estrañero; and Goa, Camarines Sur Mayor Racquel Lim.
Lim was subjected to a one-year suspension without pay due to grave abuse of authority/oppression, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, while Punsalan and seven other Sangguniang Bayan members were given six months suspension for simple neglect of duty and simple misconduct.
Estrañero was also suspended for six months for simple misconduct, while Ibarra was suspended for a month without pay due to simple dishonesty.
In allowing for their suspension during the election period, the Comelec noted that the cases against the elective officials “do not involve violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, hence prior authority from the Commission is required.”
Section 261 (x) of the Omnibus Election Code prohibits the suspension of any elective provincial, city, municipal or barangay officer without prior approval of the Comelec, “unless said suspension will be for purposes of applying the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."
DILG Undersecretary Juan Victor Llamas requested the exemption last September 4, which stemmed from the decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman.
DOLE programs exempted from election ban
The Comelec has also granted the request of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to exempt five of its programs from the ban on the implementation of projects ahead of the 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE).
Garcia approved the recommendation of the poll body’s Law Department to exempt DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD), Special program for Employment of Students, Government Internship Program, JobStart Philippines Program, and Integrated Livelihood Program or KABUHAYAN Program, following the request of Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma.
In his request, Laguesma cited the absolute necessity to continuously implement the programs even during the period of election ban as these have long been established and are continuing in nature.
The DOLE chief said the utmost urgency to disburse public funds to the target beneficiaries, while assuring that there are measures in place to ensure that the programs are properly implemented according to the prescribed guidelines, and the funds to be disbursed will not be used to engage in partisan political activities.
TUPAD is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers.
The Special program for Employment of Students, on the other hand, is DOLE’s youth employment-bridging program which aims to provide temporary employment to poor but deserving students, out-of-school youth, and dependents of displaced or would-be displaced workers.
The Government Internship Program meanwhile provides three to six month’s internship opportunities for high school, technical-vocational, or college graduates who want to pursue a career in public service in either local or national government.
JobStart enhances employability of youth by reducing their job-search period and increasing their employability through training (life skills and technical skills required by industries), paid internship and full-cycle employment facilitation services.
The Kabuhayan Program seeks to reduce the vulnerability to risks of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized workers by providing them access to grant assistance for capacity-building on livelihood ventures either for individual or group undertakings.
To date, around 1,173,484 individuals are among the beneficiaries of the said programs.
In recommending the approval of DOLE’s request, the Comelec Law Department said the programs shall not in any manner influence the 2023 BSKE and the request shall not involve any distribution of Assistance to Individual in Crisis Situation from October 20 to October 30, as these require barangay certification.
Garcia reminded the DOLE to conduct its programs or aid distributions on a municipal level to avoid providing platforms or opportunities to barangay incumbent officials.
House Appropriations Committee Vice Chairperson Bienvenido Abante urged the National Youth Commission (NYC) to create programs that will develop the moral compasses of SK leaders “so that they become beacons of good who will light the way and serve as sterling examples for the youth in their communities.”
"This is one of the first steps that need to be taken to make the Bagong Pilipinas campaign successful,” he said.
Abante said experience has shown that "the reality is that SK leaders are exposed to temptation in the course of their duties.”
“The tragedy is that many of them give in to temptation,” he said.
Abante said that aside from providing SK officers with the technical know-how to perform their duties, they should constantly be reminded that they are expected to serve as examples for their fellow youth.
“The youth are often referred to as the hope of our nation; as a grandfather with young grandchildren, I pray that this is true so that their generation grows up in a country where they can look up to their leaders," he added. (with reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)