Incumbent local candidates in limbo over gov't vehicles
By Jean Duron-Abangan
TAGUM CITY (26 April) -- "Can we still use our service vehicles?"
Incumbent local officials vying for re-election or seeking higher posts have sought opinions from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial office regarding the use of government vehicles.
Provincial DILG Director Liborio Diana explained that using government service vehicles as "inherent to the position" as local chief executives they may be running for election or not.
"Wala man sila mi-resign," he said.
To him, using government vehicles even in going to political rallies could still be allowed "as long as no campaign materials are pasted on the vehicles," he said.
"Dili lang butangan ug poster, dili lang butangan ug campaign materials," he said in giving his views.
Diana aired his views noting a number of incumbent local candidates who had come to him to seek DILG opinions.
But Commission on Election (COMELEC) provincial election officer Atty. Marlon Casquejo stood pat with his memorandum to all LGU executives running this mid-term election on May 14.
Going to political rallies to campaign "is not an official function of a local government official," that would warrant the use of government vehicles, he explained.
"Kung moadto sila ug(political) rally, klaro pangampanya na. (Going to political rallies is a clear act of campaigning) he said in pointing out prohibition on using government vehicles during campaign sorties. "Dapat mogamit sila ila sarili sakyanan. (So they should use their own vehicle)," he added.
"In (political) rallies, there should be no red plate vehicles there," he said.
Through a memorandum from his office dated April 10, 2007, Casquejo directed all incumbent candidates to "desist from using government vehicles, equipment, facilities, etc. in the course of your campaigning, pursuant to Section 261, paragraph O of the Omnibus Election Code."
The specified election code says "Use of public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, facilities, owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign. Any person who uses under any guise whatsoever, directly or indirectly (1) public funds or money deposited with or held in trust by, public financing institutions or by government offices, banks or agencies; (2) any printing press, radio, or television station or audio-visual equipment operated by Government or by its divisions, sub-divisions, agencies or instrumentalities including government owned or controlled corporations, or by Armed Forces of the Philippines; or (3) any equipment vehicle, facility, apparatus, or paraphernalia owned by the government or controlled corporations, or by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for any election campaign or for any partisan political activity. (Par (j) Id.)"
"Except when they attend official functions like graduation, they can use government vehicle. But if during the occasion they are distributing campaign materials, that's campaigning," Casquejo said.
Violations to such election code prohibition would constitute an election offense punishable of imprisonment from one year to six years and those found guilty would be disqualified to hold a public office, Casquejo said.
But he said such offense against any incumbent candidate can only be charged based on official complaints lodged with corresponding witnesses necessary for the case to prosper.
"Dapat may complainant and witnesses," he said. (PIA-XI/JDA) [top]