CEBU CITY -- Interior and Local Government-Central Visayas Director Pedro Noval promised the immediate implementation of a memo banning the names and pictures of politicians from project billboards and government patrol vehicles.

Noval said he has not received a copy of the memorandum yet, but agrees with it.

"In the first place, that belongs to the government and taxpayers' money was used. It's not proper for politicians to place their photo or name, as if these things belong to them," Noval said.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

In Cebu City, basketball boards, skywalks and flyovers will no longer bear the names of the politicians who initiated the projects, if a councilor's idea convinces his colleagues.

Councilor Jose Daluz III filed a resolution expressing support for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 2187 filed by Senator Francis Escudero.

Escudero's bill penalizes government officials who will "label or acknowledge the procurement of items with their names or identities as if the projects or items were personally funded," when taxpayers' money paid for the project.

In an interview last Wednesday, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said the ban is a "non-issue." Whether or not a politician puts his image or name, what matters is that the project gets done, she said.

Meanwhile, local police officials will be coordinating with local chief executives to inform them of a new directive instructing them to remove the names of politicians from their police vehicles.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) also ordered the removal of unauthorized markings from PNP vehicles, including commercial endorsements or political slogans.

Daluz said he was inspired after President Benigno Aquino III announced he doesn't want his name printed on billboards of government projects.

"This practice has been going on for decades and is devoid of any moral and ethical scruples. It is intended primarily for self-promotion and propaganda to perpetuate oneself in office and institute the evils of patronage politics using taxpayers' money," said Daluz in his resolution.

In an interview, Daluz said City Government projects should only carry words like "Project of Cebu City" or "Project of the Mayor of Cebu City and the City Council."

Daluz said politicians and government officials should be reminded the office they are holding is a public trust, and as public servants, they should deliver projects and services that benefit the public and not view it "as a favor bestowed by them."

"This practice of self-promotion is a clear case of abuse of power akin to the 'wangwang' (siren) issue that needs to be nipped in the bud," he said.

Under Escudero's bill, government officials whose names are found in government projects will be imprisoned for one year and they will be fined P100,000 to P1,000,000. The fine will depend on the amount of the project.

Second-time offenders will be disqualified from public office.

Interviewed separately, Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Chief Patrocinio Comendador told reporters he will conduct an inventory of their patrol cars to find out if there are any markings there that include politicians' names.

He said he is sure that all PNP-issued vehicles in the CCPO do not have other markings except those that are authorized. However, he will have to check if there are vehicles given to them by local officials that have markings.

Cebu Provincial Police Office Chief Erson Digal said he will coordinate with the Provincial Government regarding the directive.

He explained, though, that the blue jeeps provided to them by the Cebu Provincial Government are on loan but still belong to the province.

Aside from the Cebu Provincial Government, he said there are other police cars provided to them by local officials.

PNP Chief Jesus Verzosa recently issued the directive to remove all unauthorized markings to prevent police cars from being used for advertising. He also objected to a newspaper photo of a police car bearing the sticker of a male hygiene product.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has revised its guidelines on DPWH signs. Project billboards, it said, should only contain the name of the project and location, contractor, the date when it started and the project's completion date.

The billboards can also provide details on the contract cost, name of the construction consultant, if any, and the source of funds.

In Luzon, most of the billboards recently torn down were those for road projects bearing the photo and name of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (PDF/RRF/MEA/Sun.Star Cebu)