House OKs bill granting subsidy to political parties during electionsBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill which will allow the government to subsidize political parties in order to level the playing field during elections.
House Bill 6551 or “An Act Strengthening the Political Party System, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes” was passed Tuesday night with all 168 legislators present during session voting for its approval.
The said measure was sponsored by the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms and seeks to lower the opportunities for graft and corruption during elections by introducing reforms to campaign financing.
The version passed was a bill consolidating HB 49, HB 403 and HB 159 and mandates that state subsidy be created for the operating funds of Accredited National Political Parties (APPs). The said funds will be used for party development and campaign expenditures.
One of the authors of the three original bills consolidated to form HB 6551, Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, said that this was a good development “for those complaining about the current state of the political system particularly about political dynasties, the lack of a level playing field, and the lack of ideology or differences between parties, they should consider this bill which encourages the development of political parties, which play an important part in democracies.”
“There is a need to reform traditional politics which consists of party hopping for convenience, the use of parties as personal vehicles rather than real ideology based entities, and the domination of parties by the wealthy elites,” he added.
Under the said measure, political parties eligible to receive the said subsidy will be based on political representation, organizational strength and mobilization capability, performance and track record.
Five percent of the funding will be used solely for monitoring, information dissemination and voters’ education; 30 percent will go to the APPs represented in the Senate based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections; while 65 percent will be distributed to the APPs in the House of Representatives also based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general polls.
HB 6552 also provides that disclosure and performance monitoring under this Act shall consist of the following: (a) the Commission on Audit (COA) shall examine the financial reports of the APPs on their use of the State subsidy; (b) APPs shall institute internal control mechanisms to promote accountability and transparency and (c) officials of every APP shall submit a sworn statement of their assets and liabilities to the Commission which shall be made available to the public at least six months before elections.
The measure will apply to political parties duly registered with and certified to as such by the Commission on Elections. They are mandated to create clear policy agenda and program of governance consistent with their party philosophy and ideals.
The political parties are also expected to formulate a system on nomination and selection of candidates, in which all party members are involved.
Voluntary contributions to any of the APPs will be up to P1 million from a natural person and can go up to as much as P10 million if from a juridicial person. Contributions in cash or in kind made for campaign purposes and reported to Comelec will be expemted from donor’s tax.
The bill states that an amount of P500 million be appropriated out of the funds of the National Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and the amount of P350 million be appropriated every year thereafter.
Guidelines for the release of the said funding to APPs will be promulgated by the Comelec and the Department of Budget and Management. Meanwhile, the Comelec will be tasked to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations.