‘Epal’? There’s an app for that

MANILA, Philippines — The “Anti-Epal” drive has just shifted from Facebook to mobile.

A new citizen-reporting app, dubbed InstaPatrol, has joined hands with what is publicly known as the “Anti-Epal Movement” on Facebook in outing and shaming politicians that are subtly campaigning early for the 2013 elections.

“Epal,” which originated from the Filipino term “mapapel,” has evolved in meaning to refer to government officials publicly brandishing their names and faces in projects and materials funded by people’s taxes.

The practice has grown in popularity among local politicians who occasionally include their faces in banners with holiday greetings, or tactlessly emblazoning their names in public projects otherwise funded by citizens’ money.

The Android app, which started out as a venue for citizen reportage of national problems such as floods, traffic, potholes, and erring bus drivers, among others, is evolving to include the new function in time for the upcoming mid-term elections.

“We’re incorporating the Anti-Epal function to be launched by the end of the week,” said Dinjo Constantino, one of the members of developer Kwan Initiatives, in an email to InterAksyon.com.

The app works in much the same way as its namesake, Instagram, in that mobile users could easily launch the app, capture a photo of the incident, and easily share it through the main stream inside the application.

Users can also browse through the map section of the app to see local reports within their vicinity. To reach as much audience as possible, the app likewise allows tagging the social networking accounts of concerned government agencies as well as various media organizations.

“If the eyes are the window to your soul, then InstaPatrol is the window to the soul of the Philippines,” the group said.

And in the upcoming elections, one of the world’s means to view the Philippine situation will be through mobile apps like InstaPatrol and Facebook campaigns from the Anti-Epal movement.

Since its launched this year, the shame campaign had occasionally been updating its Facebook page to spread photos of political materials from so-called “Epaliticians.”

Some government officials, such as TESDA’s Joel Villanueva, had started taking their materials down in response to the overwhelming pressure from the campaign.

The group had recently garnered support from Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes, and has the backing of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago via a proposed “Anti-Epal Bill.”