LENTE’s Statement on Abuse of State Resources (ASR) Monitoring during the Election Period for BSKE 2023
October 18, 2023, Quezon City. Since 28 August 2023, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) has been monitoring electoral activities for the upcoming Barangay and SK Elections (BSKE). This is a component of a pioneering initiative to analyze how incumbent officials use state resources for their electoral advantage, affecting the standard of a level playing field in elections.
In this light, LENTE documented notable incidents of distribution of social services in one of the cities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). In particular, incumbent barangay officials, who now seek reelection, were observed providing temporary shelters to their constituents with plans of converting the same into daycare centers.
There were also child immunization programs conducted within the residence of barangay officials, apart from the donation of educational materials.
The conduct of several welfare programs were likewise observed in one of the cities in South Cotabato. Barangay based projects such as Oplan Libreng Tuli, Free X-ray, and HIV testing were spearheaded by local government officials with the objective of highlighting their supported candidates for the upcoming barangay elections. Further, scholarship grants distributed to student-beneficiaries required the presentation of their voter's ID. On the part of local government officials, these may constitute unlawful intervention, if not a violation of Civil Service Rules, which enjoin civil servants from engaging in any partisan political activities.
Collectively, these programs also fall under the rubric of premature campaigning in the context of the BSKE. These, too, are presumed unlawful unless a prior exemption has been granted by COMELEC. Such presumption stems from this country's prolonged and familiar experience with the politicization of government services in the run-up to the electoral cycle. Such practices restrict access to opportunities to public service and reinforce the deeply entrenched dynastic form of politics.
This political culture significantly erodes the foundations of electoral integrity and fair electoral competition as it distorts the political landscape to the benefit of the incumbent candidate.
LENTE calls upon the public to maintain vigilance regarding the potential politicization of programs and social welfare services, along with instances of the Abuse of State Resources especially during the campaign period (October 19-28, 2023) up to the forthcoming election.
The public may submit their ASR reports through LENTE's portal at https://www.lente.org.ph/report#report-form. Reports may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or through LENTE's hotline at 0920-266-0944. For inquiries regarding LENTE's Statement, please contact:
Atty. Ona Caritos