The anti-epal campaign-A A +A
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
YES it is true. The DSWD including its Field Office in the Cordillera Administrative Region is launching the “Bawal ang Epal Dito” campaign, a communication strategy that aims to protect the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (conditional cash transfer or CCT) from the “epal”.
The term “epal” as used in bills filed by Senators Chiz Escudero and Miriam Santiago is street lingo for credit-grabber. It applies to politicians who claim successes of government programs because of their personal efforts or because of their use of personal funds.
Last year, the DSWD communications group developed the campaign due to reports that a number of politicians and groups have started to take advantage of the CCT for political gain.
The agency saw the vulnerability of the program especially in its grantees during the election period. Activities such as the cash payouts and the monthly family development sessions could possibly be abused by candidates.
The “Bawal ang Epal Dito” campaign, which will run until March or April this year, seeks to eliminate the misconception that politicians have a control over the CCT and other social protection programs implemented by the DSWD.
The agency also believes that it will be an opportunity to strengthen the program’s identity as a social development program and not just a mere dole-out.
The campaign’s core message is clear: “Walang karapatan ang kahit sino man [pulitiko] na mag-alis ng pangalan. Ang DSWD regional office at national office lamang ang may karapatang gawin ito. DSWD lamang ang may karapatang tanggalin ang benepisyaryo kung siya ay hindi susunod sa mga itinakdang kondisyon.” [No one has the right to delist a beneficiary. Only the DSWD regional and national offices are authorized to do so. DSWD has the sole right to delist beneficiaries if they will not comply with program conditions.]
Last week, Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño questioned the campaign saying it is not within the agency’s mandate to launch such a campaign.
Other members of the minority in the House of Representatives also questioned the use of funds for the anti-epal campaign. They argued that it could be used for the advantage of the administration’s own ticket for the upcoming elections. Members of the minority also claimed that it does not serve the purpose as the funds will come from the CCT funds.
Malacañang was quick to respond saying that the fund allocated for the campaign is part of the operations cost for the program, not from funds allocated for cash grants.
Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte also explained that the strategy is part of the program’s communications and advocacy efforts which have long been part of program operations.
For the DSWD communications group, the anti-epal campaign, which is mainly on information, education, and communication, does not favor any politician, not even the administration bets. In agency’s instruction to regional offices, the campaign focuses on empowering beneficiaries to have the freedom to choose their leaders without any fear of being stricken out from the list of CCT grantees.
Amid the criticisms, I believe that the CCT needs a campaign to protect its integrity during this political season. Besides, launching campaigns and communication strategies for its programs has been an old practice of the DSWD.
I have seen the campaign ads myself and I am pretty sure that they are almost the usual program posters used by the DSWD except that this time, the messages encourage the active participation of the public: to be involved and to take action against “epals” in the coming elections.
In fact, I am quite excited to join and to lead in the campaign that says: “Makialam. Magsumbong. Bawal ang epal dito.”
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 16, 2013.