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Nueva Ecija governor called out the media after a report on P500 cash envelopes

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Governor Aurelio Umali says he could not cancel his financial aid distribution program just because Bongbong Marcos was visiting

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio “Oyie” Umali said on Thursday, March 17, that the envelopes of P500 bills given to rally attendees on Tuesday, March 15, were “ayuda” or financial aid that has long been scheduled and cannot be canceled just because presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos was visiting.

During a Facebook livestream on Thursday, Umali called out the media, saying: Bakit aangguluhan ng sinasabi nating fourth branch ng ating gobyerno? (Why must the fourth branch [sic] of the government have to angle it this way?)

“Alangan namang sabihan ko mga tao, you were selected na pero dahil may parating na presidentiable, ay stop po kayo, di kayo priority? (You cannot expect me to tell people, you were selected but because a presidentiable is coming, let’s stop and you’re no longer priority?)” he said.

The alleged distribution of cash envelopes was reported by Rappler, CNN Philippines, and GMA Network. Furthermore, the governor continued to criticize Rappler’s story.

Why point out that even after two visits, hindi ko pa rin ineendorso (Why point out that even after two visits, I am still giving an endorsement)?” he said.

He then accused some media workers of trespassing in his home and eating even before he even had a chance to.

Eh yung iba nga pong kasamahan niyo, nauna pang kumain dito (Your other companions even ate here even before we did),” Umali said.

The livestream on Governor Umali’s page was taken down on Friday afternoon.

“This is my way of explaining to people, what is there to explain? Dito sa Nueva Ecija tuloy tuloy ang pagbibigay ng tulong (here in Nueva Ecija, our assistance continues) because they deserved to be helped,” said Umali.

After candidates from both the Uniteam and the local slate had left the area, news cameras captured the distribution of envelopes inside Umali’s residential compound.

Media outlets attempted to reach Umali through his provincial administrator on Tuesday, but the governor said on Thursday that he did not want to answer media questions because he would only get ten seconds of airtime.

The election code forbids giving, offering, or promising money or anything of value “to induce anyone or the general public to vote for or against any candidate,” also known as vote-buying.

Umali stated that they could not go house to house to give financial assistance because it would be “kasi magkakagulo (chaotic)” and that the choice of an open area like his compound was to follow open-air protocols in the pandemic.

Umali confirmed that he has a pending petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to be granted an exemption so that he can continue working on this project while campaigning for reelection in Nueva Ecija. The local campaign period begins on March 25. The national campaign period started on February 8th.

A Comelec resolution on the use of public funds passed in December 2021 requires government offices that run social welfare projects to request a certificate of exception from the Comelec in order to continue operating these initiatives.

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