The non-partisan Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) has recorded a slight increase in cases of abuse of state resources (ASR) in some cities across the country, including Puerto Princesa.

LENTE, which had just completed its first and second rounds of ASR monitoring covering the periods March 25 to April 15 and April 16 to May 1, primarily focused on the campaign of local officials, said in a statement released Thursday that, from 21% in the first round, around 28% of voter respondents in the second round took into account that candidates are using government vehicles in their campaign sorties.

“According to LENTE’s findings, the respondents identified incumbent candidates from Quezon City, Santiago City, and Butuan City who utilized government vehicles, mainly to transport attendees and supporters to campaign meetings,” LENTE said.

“The same is observed by the community leader respondents, who also identified incumbent candidates from lloilo City, Santiago City, and Puerto Princesa City, who are using government vehicles and government infrastructures, such as barangay halls and basketball courts, to store campaign paraphernalia and food of supporters,” the legal network added.

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LENTE believes that the increased usage of government assets, such as vehicles and infrastructure, is due to more intense candidate campaigns near the end of the political season.

Another important finding from LENTE’s second round of monitoring is that respondents are becoming more comfortable identifying candidates who are exploiting state resources in their campaigns.

“While hesitancy to identify candidates is still observed among the majority of the respondents, quite a few respondents were willing to identify the said local candidates, which LENTE did not observe during the first phase of the monitoring,” it said.

This, it claimed, might be attributed to a growing public awareness of the importance of reporting ASR incidents, particularly during elections.

On the other hand, roughly 55 percent of civil servant respondents, whom LENTE previously noted as having a high level of awareness of the legal constraints on the use of public resources during the campaign, think that openly supporting a candidate will cause them problems.

These issues include a reprimand from their human resources department, suspension or termination from their position, and social media harassment.

“LENTE views this as an issue because it indicates that our civil servants believe their employment status would be jeopardized if they openly support the opposing candidate – even if they do so within the confines of our existing civil service standards,” it said.

Meanwhile, on the part of the local candidates or their campaign staff, only 10 accommodated LENTE’s request to be interviewed for the 2nd round involving the conduct of their respective campaigns.

“Moving forward, LENTE hopes that our candidates will be more participative and responsive to this type of monitoring.
In addition to our local campaign monitoring, LENTE observed that ASR has similarly far-reaching implications at the national-level campaign – primarily when the resources of local government units are employed at the expense of the local
constituents,” it said further.

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