By Mortz C. Ortigoza
QUEZON CITY – Pangasinan Second District Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil has no regrets of his early decision not to display his name in all his projects in the eight towns of the district. Bataoil said until now he still keep in his mobile phone the text message he sent to Engineer Rodolfo Dion, chief of the 2nd Engineering District in Pangansinan instructing him not to put signage announcing to the public that he was responsible for the projects being constructed in his district . “I just felt good by not showing to the public that I interceded for the projects I constructed there,” Bataoil said. He said his daughter kept badgering him in his earlier term as solon not to put signage with his name as “it is awkward” despite the non- passing into law of the Anti-Epal Bill.
Anti Epal Bill or Senate Bill No. 1967 is an act prohibiting public officers from claiming credit through signage announcing a public works project. Epal” is slang for “ma-papel” a Filipino term for scene stealer in affairs that are not necessarily theirs to handle or decide on. Proponents of the bill assailed elective officials’ propensity to put billboard near the project with their name on it as if it was their personal money that bankrolled the infrastructure. Eng. Dion has confirmed Bataoil resolved to withhold his name from his infrastructure projects. He said Bataoil asked him to remove his name on the signage of all his projects in deference to the Anti- Epal Bill. Dion said the lawmaker, through an SMS, instructed him to remove all the signage the DPWH has put to all his projects like roads and school buildings. Dion, who oversees projects from the national government in the second and fourth congressional districts in the province, lauded Bataoil for his decision. Dion said the bill was passed by Senator Merriam Santiago at the House of Senate. The bill said posting names on government projects by members of congress are “unnecessary and highly unethical” and “promotes a culture of political patronage and corruption.” The bill imposes a jail term of between six months and one year on a public official who would have his or her name or image printed on a “signage announcing a proposed or ongoing public works project.” The prohibition also applies to existing government projects that are undergoing maintenance or rehabilitation. But Dion said one can not blame other congressmen in the province who post their name on projects because it comes from their P70 million priority development assistant fund (PDAF) and from the national government.