Thu. Jul 29th, 2021

MANILA – The remaining funds earmarked for roadshows promoting the government’s proposed federalism have been returned to the Bureau of Treasury to augment the budget for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said on Tuesday.

”Any downloaded roadshow funds from the past year have either already been spent or have been returned to the country’s treasury to financially assist the programs and actions against Covid-19,” Andanar said in a statement.

Andanar made the remarks as he refuted the claim of Senator Nancy Binay that the PCOO and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) are focused on the signature campaign for Charter Change (Cha-cha).

Andanar said that while the government is open to constructive criticisms, it needs to correct Binay’s “inaccurate” statement.

“We would like to clarify with the Senator the facts of the matter at hand. It is inaccurate to state that the government is spending on and conducting federalism roadshows amid the Covid-19 crisis in the country and that the PCOO and DILG have failed to come up with and implement a communication plan for the Covid-19 crisis. We strongly state that this is not the case,” he said.

Binay, in a statement on Monday, urged PCOO and DILG to drop its signature campaign for Cha-cha and instead focus on an aggressive informative drive on Covid-19.

She added that PCOO and DILG should redirect their federalism roadshow budgets and prioritize public health interests to prevent a possible surge of Covid-19 infections.

Andanar said that no part of the 2020 budget or any fund has been used for any roadshow intended to promote the proposed federalism.

He also clarified that the online signature campaign was not managed by the DILG nor the PCOO.

He said it was instead supervised by the two agencies’ partners, the civil society organizations, that are voluntarily conducting the online initiative.

“The said initiative is also not pushing for charter change but focuses on core which is about amendments and not revisions,” Andanar said.

Efforts refocused

Andanar assured Binay that the government has minimized its engagements on promoting the proposed federalism since the start of 2020.

He said the current administration is now focused on helping the government in its fight against Covid-19 by raising public awareness.

“We have refocused all our efforts towards mitigating the dire effects brought about by the pandemic. Therefore, no active engagements are in place as we continue to undertake front-line responsibilities to our citizens. We would also like to assure the Senator that the PCOO’s efforts towards fulfilling its mandate of engaging the public in matters of governance and consensus, especially in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, has never wavered nor strayed,” he said.

Andanar also emphasized that the PCOO has been actively engaging the public by producing numerous virtual materials about the government’s initiatives and response to the Covid-19 pandemic since January this year.

He said his office is holding public briefings, creating social media content, managing Laging Handa’s Covid-19 one-stop website, and conducting virtual pressers hooked up to other private media networks for more amplification.

“With that in mind, one cannot say that the PCOO has not been able to carry out its obligations of keeping the public informed of government programs and policies,” Andanar said.

There were reports that the DILG supposedly ordered its regional offices to continue gathering up to two million signatures over the next two months to back amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año merely branded the reports as “fake news”.

President Rodrigo Duterte, during his fourth State of the Nation Address in July 2019, did not mention his proposed shift to federalism but said talks on Cha-cha are “better left in conferences that are not allowed to be open to the public”. (ia/PNA)

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