Anti-Epal Movement gets big boost from new app

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@paolomontecillo

01:41 AM September 18th, 2012

By: Paolo G. Montecillo, September 18th, 2012 01:41 AM

AGAINST ‘EPAL’ Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. discusses a point with May Paner, a.k.a Juana Change, and tourist guide Carlos Celdran on the sidelines of a forum on the anti-epal (against credit-grabbers) movement on Monday. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Do you want to join the Anti-Epal Movement that tries to shame politicians into taking down those posters of themselves that they plaster all over Metro Manila using public funds?

Well, there’s an app for that.

Organizers of the Anti-Epal Movement have partnered with a local technology start-up, Kwan Initiatives, to integrate into the mobile application Instapatrol a new feature that can be used to report thick-skinned politicians.

The new app will be useful in another anti-epal drive that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may launch to stop politicians from wooing voters long before the start of the campaign for next year’s midterm elections.

If the idea is approved, the Comelec will accredit a citizens’ arm for the monitoring and reporting of epals, who could be disqualified from running because of premature campaigning.

“Epal” is Filipino slang that combines being a “credit-grabber” and “thick-faced.” The term best describes politicians who splash their pictures on public works projects to claim credit unmindful of the certainty that the public knows the projects are paid for with taxpayers’ money.

New app

Instapatrol is an application for smartphones that allows users to easily share photos of traffic congestion, potholes, floods, delinquent public utility vehicles, and other annoyances with other users.

Under the partnership, which will be launched this week, a new button will be included in the application that allows users to flag photos as anti-epal posts.

Users will be given a choice to directly share the photos on the Anti-Epal Movement’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, Kwan Initiatives said.

Once users tick the Twitter button, they will see a drop-down tab that gives them the option to tag the verified Twitter accounts of various governmental agencies and private players concerned.

The agencies include the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Health, Makati Traffic and Metro Manila Skyway. The private organizations include GMA Network, ABS-CBN and the Anti-Epal Movement itself.

“This will tag the chosen government authority on the user’s Twitter account,” Kwan Initiatives said.

Against ‘trapos’

The Anti-Epal Movement describes itself as an advocacy group that aims to “reclaim public property from the clutches of traditional politicians.”

Launched ahead of the 2013 senatorial elections, the movement is named after legislation that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago recently introduced to stop premature campaigning and penalize politicians who claim credit for community projects financed with taxpayers’ money.

Santiago’s bill would bar public officials from promoting themselves months ahead of the campaign period, which starts three months before Election Day.

 

Shamed

Several politicians have buckled under the anti-epal pressure, taking down their posters and billboards on which they claim credit for national government projects.

In Quezon City, Mayor Herbert Bautista last week ordered the removal of all billboards, streamers and signs bearing the faces and names of city officials.

Before that, however, City Hall ordered workmen to paint over decorative “HB” tiles on sidewalks. “HB” are Bautista’s initials.

Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo and Councilor Vicente Belmonte, both from Quezon City, have started removing their posters in response to the anti-epal campaign.

Citizens’ arm

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters that the commission may accredit a citizens’ arm that would help the watchdog to monitor and penalize politicians and political hopefuls who would break the rules by campaigning prematurely.

The idea came up during discussions between the Comelec and anti-epal advocates led by the Transparency and Accountability Network who had launched an Internet fight against preelection campaigning.

Brillantes said the Comelec would study the idea and take it up at its meeting Tuesday.

Effective

The Comelec may also produce a resolution encouraging the anti-epal campaign, as it is proving to be effective, according to Brillantes.

He said that while the Comelec could not go after preelection campaigners, the commission could enforce rules to go after politicians taking advantage of the absence of a law against premature campaigning. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy

Originally posted at 05:19 pm | Monday, September 17, 2012

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