Comelec to go after ‘illegal’ donors
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will run after “prohibited donors,” among them mining companies and government contractors, if it can be proven that they funded the campaign of senatorial candidates during the recent midterm polls.
Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said he would look at the possibility of filing election offense cases against company officials who contributed to campaign kitties of candidates and political parties using corporate funds.
“The Comelec Law Department will have to conduct a preliminary investigation…and if there is probable cause, the case will be filed in court,” said Lim during a forum on Friday organized by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).
A PCIJ report had noted that campaign donors included officials of big business sectors that are prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code from making campaign contributions to candidates and parties.
The PCIJ reported that at least P75 million was donated to both opposition and administration parties by public works contractors with pending government projects, P70 million by officers of mining firms, and at least P62.5 million was given by individuals linked to public transportation services, such as airlines and bus companies. The PCIJ report was based on a review of the candidates’ and their parties’ Statements of Election Contributions and Expenditures (Soce).
The prohibition aims to prevent vested interests from exercising influence over elected government officials.
Responding to the report, Lim, who is the head of the poll body’s Campaign Finance Unit, said receiving donations from prohibited sources had consequences.
“If you receive a contribution from these prohibited donors, it is not only a ground for disqualification, it is also a criminal offense,” he said. The penalty could include imprisonment and suspension of one’s right to vote, he added.
But Lim admitted that it might be quite difficult to prove the guilt of prohibited donors since many contributions are often concealed.
“Some may also argue that they gave it in their private capacity,” Lim said, adding that the Election Code is “silent” on this.
But Lim said these individuals may be held accountable if their donations are shown to be sourced from the company’s earnings.
“Say, you are a president of a public utility. You are listed as a donor. But upon further investigation, it comes out that it was the company’s money, not your own. There’s a coverup there (Halatang iniwas mo),” Lim said.
The PCIJ reported that 90 of the 2,368 donors for both senators and political parties in the May 13 elections had contributed over P795 million of the total P1.7 billion donations in the elections.
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