Press Release
January 31, 2019

Senate budget provision allows critical gov't projects to skirt election ban

I support the call of Budget Secretary Ben Diokno to exempt infrastructure projects from the election period ban on certain activities.

In fact, the Senate version of the 2019 national budget contains this General provision which I sponsored:

"Notwithstanding the provisions of any law to the contrary, infrastructure projects funded under this Act shall be exempt from the prohibitions against release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds and against construction of public works and delivery of materials for public works."

Most infrastructure projects are already behind schedule, and instead of alleviating the delay, we aggravate it by suspending work simply on account that it is the season for candidates to shake hands and kiss babies.

How can a beneficial enterprise that is the construction of schools and hospitals be placed in the same category as the carrying of firearms and other prohibited activities?

Both people and progress lose if the building of facilities that they need will stop during the campaign period, more so if the latter coincides with summer--which is the best time, weather-wise, for construction.

We should take advantage of this so-called good weather window before the typhoon season kicks in.

That this forced work interruption happens every 36 months speaks of how elections delay the delivery of vital projects. We should be working on projects round the clock. But we stop the clock during the elections.

At present, election laws allow work on projects to continue provided these commenced before the start of the campaign period, provided no funds are disbursed when the ban is in effect.

Also, during the period of 45 days before election, the delivery of materials for public works is prohibited, except on exempt projects like those built with foreign assistance.

The effect is that it is almost impossible to roll out projects one and a half months before the elections. And even when projects qualify for exemption, government employees would rather err on the side of caution, fearful of being haled to court, which is a possibility in a highly-charged political atmosphere.

With the delay in the enactment of 2019 national budget, the above exemption provision is needed for government to catch up with its "Build, Build, Build" timetable.

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