By Samuel P. Medenilla, March 22 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Philippine Star

Starting next week, all public works and social welfare projects will be temporarily suspended by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as part of its preparations for the midterm polls on May 13.

In a resolution, the Comelec en banc said all public works and social welfare projects, except those which will allowed by the poll body, will be suspended from March 29 to May 12.

Also to be suspended during the 45-day ban is the release, disbursement or expenditure of government funds for the said projects.

Workers from the affected public works should be promptly paid their complete wage upon the suspension of their respective projects.

“Any violation of the provisions of the Resolution shall be, consistent with Section 261 and 264 of the Omnibus Election Code, constitute an election offense and shall be punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year but n0t more than six years, among other penalties provided by the law,” the Comelec en banc said in its
Resolution 10511.

The move aims to prevent government projects from being used to influence voters to support certain candidates.

Only projects with Certificate of Exception from Comelec will be allowed to continue for the duration of the election ban.

Public works, which could be exempted from the election ban, include maintenance of existing and/or completed public workers; undertaken by contract through public bidding held or negotiated contract awarded before March 29; and emergency work necessitated by the occurrence of public calamity among others.

Public works contracted under a public-private-partnership (PPP) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) are also not covered by the ban.

As of Thursday, Comelec has yet to decide on the request of the National Economic Development Authority to exempt 145 projects under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

Comelec’s Campaign Finance Office (CFO) said the request is already undergoing evaluation.

In a related development, Comelec’s Election Officers (EOs) are required to release their respective Posted Computerized Voters List (PCVL).

The PCVL contains the list of the polling precincts, where voters are assigned to vote on May 13.

Legal Network for Truthful Elections warned that EOs who will not be able to release the PCVL on time could face sanctions.

“Remember. March 29. If the list of voters would not be posted, it is considered as an election offense on the part of the Election Officer,” the group said in a statement.