CEBU CITY -- Local government units only have until this Sunday to transfer or suspend any of their officials as instructed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which also approved the guidelines on the prohibition on hiring of new employees and use of funds for public works.
By March 26, when the local campaign period starts, the prohibition on hiring new permanent or casual employees will take effect, as well as the total ban on the promotion of employees and any salary increase.
In a separate resolution, the poll body also promulgated the rules in enforcing the prohibition on release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds for public works effective March 26.
As in previous elections, the resolutions were promulgated to ensure that the voters will not be influenced by any action of the candidates, particularly those who are holding public office.
Violations of any of the provisions of the two resolutions constitute an election offense and are punishable by imprisonment.
When the election period starts on Sunday, the total gun ban and ban on the alteration of territory of precincts or the creation of new precincts, transfer of officers and employees in the civil service and use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates will also take effect.
"If there is no prohibition on hiring, naturally the people you hired will vote for you. As for public works, the ban is imposed to prevent any abuse. For example, instead of paying their supporters using their personal money, some candidates might hire their supporters for certain government projects and use public funds to pay them," city election officer for the north district Marchel Sarno said.
In Cebu City, officials are rushing the review of documents of employees due for promotion, as well as the filling up of vacant positions, including those at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).
City Administrator Francisco Fernandez said a number of city officials and employees are due for promotion.
"That's what we're working on now. We're preparing the papers for all appointments and promotions for approval of the mayor before the deadlines set by Comelec get in the way," he said.
As for the ban on public works, Fernandez said he does not see any City Government project that stands to be affected by the Comelec rules since there are no projects to be undertaken after March 26.
Some P300 million in funding for self-help projects had been distributed to the different barangays last month, and Fernandez said they are expected to be implemented before the ban takes effect.
"We have plenty of projects but most of these are being implemented by the barangays. We are not rushing them because I don't think these will be affected by the ban," he explained.
The Comelec en banc promulgated Resolutions 8732 and 8737 last December 23 and 29, respectively.
As stated in both resolutions, "any violation of the provisions shall constitute an election offense and shall be punishable by imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, among other penalties provided by law."
Resolution 8732 states that from March 26 to May 10, "no public official or employee including barangay officials...shall release, disburse or expend any public funds for any and all kinds of public works."
Exempted are the maintenance of existing or completed projects, work undertaken by contract through public bidding held before March 26, and emergency work due to a calamity.
The ban on disbursement of public funds also applies to social welfare and development agencies and offices, except when it is used for the salary of its employees.
In the event of a calamity, their duties to provide aid to victims should be turned over to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).
The resolution also specifies that candidates and their relatives are not allowed to participate in the distribution of relief goods.
Resolution 8737 sets the rules for the enforcement of the prohibition against hiring of new employees and creating or filling new positions, and granting salary increase and promotion.
It states that when the election period starts this Sunday, "no public official shall, except upon prior written authority of the Commission, make or cause any transfer or detail of any officer or employee in the civil service."
They are also prohibited from suspending any elective official, unless the suspension will be for the purpose of applying the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."
At the start of the campaign period on March 26, no head or appointing officer of any national or local government office shall, except upon prior authority of the Commission, appoint or hire any new employee.
The resolution also states that no government official shall promote or give any increase of salary or remuneration or privilege to any government official or employee. (LCR of Sun.Star Cebu)