Mandaue City Council asks Comelec not to exempt city’s cash assistance program from election ban 

By: Rosalie O. Abatayo April 25,2019 - 11:54 AM

MANDAUE CITY, Cebu — The opposition-allied majority of the Mandaue City Council has asked the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to junk any petition of the city for exemption from the ban on the disbursement of funds during the campaign period.

Seven out of twelve members of Mandaue City Sangguniang Panlungsod signed the resolution resolution, which was approved and adopted at the council’s regular session on Wednesday afternoon, April 24, 2019.

Among those who signed the resolution are Councilors Nenita Ceniza-Layese, Carmelino Del Mar Jr., Dalie Ann Cabatingan, Malcolm Sanchez, Cynthia Remedio, Marie Immaline Cortes-Zafra and Ernie Manatad.

The councilors alleged that the administration is using the city’s financial assistance program under Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) to “lure” the voters to their favor.

Disbursing of public funds within the 45-day window prior to the election day is among the prohibited acts cited in the Omnibus Election Code and reiterated by the Comelec in their resolutions dated October 2018 and March 20, 2019. 

In his privilege speech during the council session, Manatad lashed out at administration bets for being present during the distribution of aids in barangays.

“The administration is holding the life of every Mandauehanon hostage by dangling out money like a lure to a hungry fish at the start of the election campaign, conditioning it on their fate come May 13, 2019,” Manatad said.

“No matter how the administration call[s] it or how they sweeten the packaging, it is still in my opinion questionable and highly dubious, because this is meant to influence the voting preferences of the Mandauehanons,” Manatad added.

Lawyer Danilo Almendras, city administrator, however, maintained that the continuing distribution of the city’s cash aid is valid since it is covered by the exceptions provided by the Comelec.

In Comelec Resolution 10511 issued on March 20, 2019, the disbursement of funds for projects established prior to the elections is among those exempted from the disbursement ban during the campaign period.

“Our disbursement of cash assistance under social services is established already even before. In fact the Commission on Audit (COA), in its audit on Mandaue City’s book of accounts, they acknowledged this program,” Almendras said.

Almendras admitted that they did file for an exemption of the disbursement ban around February of this year because the first resolution issued by the Comelec in October 2018 did not provide for the exemption. 

Not a campaign stunt

Almendras said their petition has become moot since the Comelec issued another resolution on March 20, 2019 providing for the exemptions. 

Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna, an ally of the administration, said in an interview on Thursday, April 25, 2019 that the approval of the resolution will not affect the implementation of the project.

Fortuna also said the project will continue, citing that it does not violate any of the conditions in the provisions of the exemption issued by the Comelec.

Fortuna also belied the allegations that they used the disbursement of the cash assistance as a campaign stunt.

“Dili man kami ang mohatag sa (It is not us giving the) cash assistance. When the campaign period started, we stopped [being there in the distribution] because of the restrictions sa Comelec,” Fortuna said. /bmjo

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