Manila: Local elective officials and other politicians have been barred from attending pay outs of national government programmes and activities in a bid to avoid politicking as the May 13 elections approach.

“Let us not give the impression that you were the ones responsible in making government projects in your localities a reality especially during this campaign season,” Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a statement in Filipino as he referred to politicians.

He added that the Code of Conduct of Government Officials mandates public officials and employees to be more circumspect in their activities especially during this campaign season to avoid politicking.

Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who is not among those running in the midterm general elections in May 13, called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to investigate reports that certain politicians in the northern Philippines’ province of Abra were using government cash assistance under the so-called “4Ps” to buy votes.

Abra has a history of election-related violence.

Lacson, in an interview by radio station DWIZ, said that in poor areas, a family can be given up to P25,000 (Dhs 1,771) in exchange for votes.

“It used to be P200-300 (Dhs 14-21) and reached P1,000 (Dh70.84),” Lacson said

The 4Ps is a conditional cash transfer programme started during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008 and continued under the President Benigno Aquino III and now, under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. The scheme had been criticised in the past as the funds were being manipulated by local politicians to curry favour from voters.

Malaya confirmed reports from other national government agencies, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), that some local elective officials are exerting undue influence over the pay outs of government programmes.

“The pay outs of the DSWD, among other programmes, is apolitical. We cannot and will not tolerate any politician to speak during the release of assistance. The payout cannot be linked to any candidate or political party,” he says.

“The DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) is dismayed that politicians are using the pay out to advance their own political ambitions despite appeals from the DSWD not to do so. The 4Ps is a nationally funded program, therefore LGU officials cannot claim credit for it,” he points out.

The 4Ps was implemented by the past governments after studies by global lending institutions such as the World Bank observed that despite the relative improvements in the economy, the poor had remained poor and left out from the benefits of developments.

The Philippines will elect their next 12 senators, more than 300 members of the House of Representatives as well as governors, mayors and their deputies, and city, provincial and municipal council members.