June 17, 2024

The Commission on Elections must streamline its rules on the 45-day election ban on public spending and expedite actions on pending requests for exemptions.
In a statement, Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the Comelec could speed up its action on applications for exemptions on fund releases or disbursements by giving itself a deadline of seven to 10 days.
He said the Comelec could do away with the holding of a mandatory hearing to tackle each individual application and just approve the request motu proprio (on its initiative), if and when the applicant has submitted the complete documents and the commission has already found merit in such a plea for exemption.
The poll body could empower its regional or provincial offices to act on applications in their respective localities, instead of requiring every applicant to present its case at the Comelec central office in Intramuros, Manila.
Comelec’s Resolution 10747 issued on Dec. 16, 2021 includes the prohibition on public officials or employees in government offices, government-owned and-controlled corporations and barangay from releasing, disbursing or expending public funds from March 25 to May 8 this year, save for specific projects or programs that the commission has exempted or will exempt from the order.
Villafuerte said the “apparently prodigious volume of exemption applications” from national government agencies and local government units would overwhelm the poll body and prevent them from acting on all of these requests in timely fashion, possibly resulting in a virtual shutdown of certain national and local government operations this campaign season.
“Given this wholesale prohibition on the release, disbursement and expenditure of public funds, the inability of our electoral watchdog to act on all formal requests for applications in a more expeditious manner has virtually shut down certain operations of most agencies and local governments that have been compelled to put some of their programs, projects and other official activities on hold while waiting for the Comelec to approve their requests for exemption from the spending ban,” he said.
Villafuerte said many agencies have sought the Comelec’s exemption from the spending ban of their Covid-19 response initiatives, such as the Department of Trade and Industry seeking to be exempted from this directive to continuously distribute livelihood kits to typhoon victims and to families dislocated by the recent eruption of Taal Volcano, and the Department of Agriculture requesting exemption for its fertilizer and fuel subsidies for crop farmers.
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro’s Second District, meanwhile, urged the Comelec to exempt the distribution of fertilizer and fuel subsidy to farmers from the spending ban as they need the money to prepare their farms before the rainy season.
He welcomed the Comelec’s decision to allow the release of financial assistance to public utility vehicle drivers, but he said the poll body should also spare the subsidies to farmers from the prohibition.
“I believe that the fertilizer and fuel ayuda for the agriculture sector be exempted as well. Farmers are in the same situation as PUV drivers. Both sectors need the allocated funding support now,” he said.
The DA stopped the distribution of funds upon orders of the Comelec but has already appealed for an exemption.
The order covers not only cash assistance to farmers but the procurement of farm implements and machineries as well.
Rodriguez said he is confident that the poll body would favorably act on DA Sec. William Dar’s appeal.
The DA issued a Memorandum Circular 7, s. 2022, dated March 7 containing the guidelines on the provision of fuel discounts to farmers and fisherfolk and allocated P500 million.
The fuel discount shall be primarily for all machineries used in corn production from land preparation to postharvest activities as well as motorized boats for fishing operations. – PNA