By Christian V. Esguerra | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senators on Tuesday started formal deliberations on the “anti-epal” bill and agreed to expand the measure to include politicians and public officials who put their names and images on donated police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
But members of the committee on civil service and government reorganization could not agree on whether violators should be penalized.
Senator Antonio Trillanes, committee chairman, floated the idea of removing the penal provisions in Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s Senate Bill No. 1967, also known as the “anti-epal” measure.
“I believe that at some point, this practice will go away without having to penalize anyone,” he said during the first hearing his committee conducted on the bill.
But Senators Panfilo Lacson and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III opposed Trillanes’ proposal.
“I would like to express my strong reservations against removing the penal provisions… because it would become implementable,” Lacson said.
Change in behavior
Pimentel said the measure would not lead to a “change in behavior” of erring public officials if they would not be penalized.
SB 1967 provides for a jail term of between six months and one year on a public official who grabs credit over a public works project by including his or her name or image on the signage.
Trillanes said his committee would still conduct further studies on the penal provisions, warning that warring politicians might take advantage of them later on.
“We have to scrutinize the penal provisions because (the issue) is quite tricky,” he said. “Political opponents might take advantage of (the law). They’ll just put up a signage with your face on it so that you would be the one to be charged.”
During the hearing, senators expressed reservations on how the bill would be implemented should it be enacted into law.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a former congressman and governor of Ilocos Norte, suggested that the measure should provide protection to local law enforcement officers, who might be tapped to implement it.
“It would be very difficult for the local police to tear down the signage. We probably have to give them some kind of special protection… and support if they are going to go against their local masters,” he said.
In some cases, a “signage costs more than the actual project,” the senator noted.