Comelec exempts DOLE livelihood, work programs from poll spending ban

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The Commission Elections (Comelec) has exempted various livelihood and employment programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) from the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections spending ban.

In a memorandum released Thursday, Comelec Chairman George Garcia approved the exemption of DOLE's Special Program for Employment of Students, Government Internship Program, JobStart Philippines Program, DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program.

The poll body also exempted DOLE from the prohibition of appointing or hiring employees under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code as the agency's program requires hiring its beneficiaries, young workers and qualified poor, vulnerable and marginalized individuals.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Garcia clarified that government agencies may still implement social services during the election period, but with Comelec's consent.

"It is never the intention of the law for the government to stop its services to people," Garcia said. "But there are services that should pass through Comelec, such as ayuda, but when it comes to other assistance in relation to medical, burial and food, we are exempting that."

The use of public funds for government programs like social welfare projects is prohibited during the poll period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 30.

Comelec earlier exempted the Department of Social Welfare and Development's cash subsidy for small-scale retailers to compensate for losses from the price ceiling on rice under Executive Order 39.

"We are very strict with the requirements and requisites that there should be no disruption in the presence of barangay officials. They can be there to ensure peace and order but not to hand over rice subsidy," Garcia said

Garcia stressed that those caught distributing money without Comelec's consent could be charged criminally and administratively and be imprisoned for one to six years

"If the distribution is made by incumbent barangay officials who are running, we can charge them with premature campaigning and this is grounds for disqualifying the candidate," Garcia said.