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Solons thumb down proposal to regulate campaign spending

/ 05:15 PM February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Several lawmakers in the House of Representatives expressed their disapproval on the proposal to regulate campaign spending of political parties and candidates in elections.

The regulation on campaign spending was among the proposed amendments of the Inter-agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform (IATF) to the 1987 Constitution, which was tackled by the House committee on constitutional amendments on Wednesday.

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Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel called the proposal “restrictive” and “unrealistic,” noting that campaigns are expensive.

“[The proposal] is very restrictive, it is unrealistic. We know very well that campaigns are expensive and under the Comelec [Commission on Elections] rules, each candidate is only allowed to spend P3 per voter so if we have a district with 200,000 voters, you must only spend P600,000,” Pimentel said during the hearing.

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“But we know very well that each candidate, with that number of voters, spend millions of pesos, not only millions of pesos but hundreds of millions of pesos,” he added.

Pimentel also hit a provision in the proposal that prohibits contributions from “religious organizations, foreigners, foreign governments, and illegal sources.”

“This Section 4 proposes that the state shall regulate the expenses and even the contributions. Pati contribution papakialaman na eh nangangailangan nga tayo ng contribution every candidate [It meddles even with contributions when every candidate needs contribution],” the lawmaker said.

Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo, meanwhile, said party lists were “lost in translation” in the proposal.

“In the sense that, if you are talking about campaign assistance, who needs it most? It’s the marginalized and underrepresented not those who actually or maybe have the power, have the money,” Salo said.

Democracy fund

Another provision in the proposed regulation on campaign spending is the establishment of a “Democracy Fund.”

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According to IATF, the fund shall serve as a “repository of all campaign funds and contributions.”

Any citizen who contributes P10,000 to P100,000 to any registered political party or presidential candidate through the democracy fund would be entitled to taxable income deductions during that election year, IATF said.

Pimentel likewise rejected the provision.

“We are now putting so many layers. If ordinary citizens would like to run for public office, he has to handle all these very restrictive provisions,” Pimentel said.

Another provision in IATF’s proposal states that “Congress shall also provide for a party development fund to qualified and registered political parties for political party strengthening and campaign.”

But for Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay, such funds would only create a “political party industry.”

“That will encourage a new industry—a political industry dahil may development fund coming from the government. Just like what Deputy Speaker Pimentel said, this is really a stupid proposal,” Pichay said.

Give power to COA?

Another provision that the lawmakers disapproved of in the proposal is the power given to the Commission on Audit (COA) to examine all funds pertaining to the Democracy Fund and the party development fund.

Pimentel said this power is beyond COA’s mandate.

“E pati ba campaign funds we will allow COA? [We will allow COA to meddle with campaign funds?] These are already private funds, these are not government funds. It is beyond their mandate,” Pimentel said.

“These members of the IATF are members of different agencies. They do not have experience in campaigning. Ni hindi nga sila dumaan pagkandidato [They have not experienced running in the elections], what do they know about campaign expenses?” the lawmaker asked.

The committee was scheduled to vote on IATF’s proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution during Wednesday’s hearing.

The provisions that will be approved will be included in the constitutional amendments committee’s report, which will be submitted to plenary for debate.

However, the voting was postponed, with the committee chair and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez saying that IATF’s proposal needs further studying by the members of the House panel.

Edited by JPV
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TAGS: campaign, campaign spending, Cha-cha, Charter change, Comelec, Constitution
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