By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan
MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Thursday called on voters to ditch vote buying to protect the sanctity of the electoral process.
“That’s why I call on everyone: let’s work together to protect our electoral process against those who commit vote buying and vote selling. Wakasan natin ang kanser ng lipunan na ito (Let’s put an end to this cancer in our society)!” Abalos said in a statement, as the campaign period for the Oct. 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) officially kicked off.
He reminded voters that they have the power to initiate change in their communities by picking the right candidates.
“Voting is a sacred exercise of our democratic rights. Napakahalaga ng inyong mga boto lalo na’t malaki ang papel na ginagampanan ng mga barangay sa pagpapatupad ng mga programa at polisiya ng pamahalaan (Your votes are very important, especially because the barangays play a big role in implementing government programs and policies),” he added.
Abalos also said the Philippine National Police (PNP) is ready to deploy more personnel, particularly in areas determined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as areas of concern, to maintain public safety and security and prevent all forms of election-related violence in communities.
“Kasama ng Comelec at ng mga mamamayang Pilipino ang DILG at ang PNP sa pagbabantay at pagtitiyak ng mapayapang pagdaraos ng halalan, mula kampanya hanggang sa bilangan. Sama-sama nating itaguyod ang maayos, malinis, at matiwasay na eleksyon ng ating mga barangay officials tungo sa pagkamit ng ating mithiin na isang Bagong Pilipinas (The DILG and the PNP are with the Comelec and the Filipino people in monitoring and ensuring the peaceful conduct of the election, from the campaign to the counting. Let us work together to promote the orderly, clean, and peaceful elections of our barangay officials towards the achievement of our goal of a New Philippines),” Abalos said.
The PNP said Wednesday it would deploy 187,000 police officers across the country as part of heightened alert measures for the polls.
Call for vigilance
Meanwhile, a poll watchdog call on the public to be vigilant over instances of Abuse of State Resources (ASR) during the campaign period.
In a statement, Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) executive director Ona Caritos urged the people to report the possible abuse on government resources by those who are running in the BSKE.
She said the public may submit their ASR reports through its website: https://www.lente.org.ph/report#report-form; email: email@example.com.
They may also report such through the group’s hotline: 0920-266-0944.
At the same time, the LENTE official warned of a potential surge in ASR by incumbent officials.
“Incumbent officials use state resources for their electoral advantage, thus, affecting the standard of a level playing field in elections,” she said.
Caritos reported that said such actions have been observed even prior to the start of the campaign period.
Among them, she added, is in one of the cities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where incumbent barangay officials, who are running in the forthcoming polls, were observed providing temporary shelters to their constituents with plans of converting the same into daycare centers.
LENTE said several welfare programs, such as Oplan Libreng Tuli, Free X-ray, and HIV testing, were also observed in one of the cities in South Cotabato, wherein local government officials promoted candidates they are supporting for the upcoming polls.
Outstanding accounting office
For the second consecutive year, the DILG gained anew the nod of the Association of Government Accountants of the Philippines, Inc. (AGAP) and was hailed as one of the Outstanding Accounting Offices for its financial management and reporting.
Abalos said the second consecutive citation from AGAP, through the recommendation of the Commission on Audit (COA) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM), is a proof not only of the outstanding work of the Department’s Accounting Office in ensuring fluid and quality financial management in the Department but also its consistency in delivering its mandate.
AGAP is an institution of accountants, budget officers, supply officers, cashiers, and personnel belonging to the Finance Group from national government agencies, local government units, and government-owned or controlled corporations. It aims to organize government financial management practitioners to be highly competent and accountable professionals.
Abalos congratulated DILG Assistant Secretary for Administration, Finance, and Comptrollership Ester Aldana and the DILG Accounting personnel of Central and Regional Offices for their committed resolve in delivering efficient fiscal management and reporting for the Department.
Representing the DILG during the conferment of the award at the SMX in Bacolod City, Aldana said the citation is an inspiration to further push the Department’s fiscal management to greater heights. (with report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)