Comelec: Time to amend law on poll expense limits
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it was time lawmakers modify the outdated law on the election expense limit of candidates and political parties to make it more realistic and in tune with the present needs of running a campaign.
According to Comelec chair Andres Bautista, the election body has already proposed to the House of Representatives to amend the law so that the spending limits will be in tune with the times.
“We recognize that the current limits are not anymore realistic and that’s why the Comelec has told Congress that perhaps it’s time to amend the law to… reflect the current needs of running a campaign,” Bautista said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
Election Commissioner Christian Robert Lim pointed out that the law pegging the ceiling of authorized expenses of candidates and political parties was crafted 24 years ago.
“It’s a 1991 law setting this limit. [Twenty-four years] has passed and we are still using the limit without considering inflation and other realities,” Lim said.
He said the Comelec was also proposing the establishment of a tripartite body that would set the spending limit. This body would set a “flexible” maximum election expense for every region and be specific to a particular election year, he explained.
Under Republic Act No. 7166, those running for president and vice president may spend P10 for every voter currently registered in the constituency where they filed their certificates of candidacy.
Other candidates are allowed to spend P3 for every such voter.
Registered political parties may spend P5 for every voter currently registered in the constituencies where it has official candidates, according to the law.
A candidate who violates these rules will face an election offense, which carries a penalty of one to six years’ jail term, disqualification from public office and the removal of his or her right to vote.
Lim said that in the Comelec proposal, several economic factors can be used to set the cap on election expenditures, such as the current minimum wage, cost of living, consumer price index and the voting population.
“We are looking at a flexible rate,” Lim said. “For example, for 2016, this is the rate but this could be adjusted for the 2019 elections.”
Earlier, the Comelec found 36 candidates in the 2010 and 2013 elections went beyond the mandated campaign spending limit. About 1,200 more candidates are under preliminary investigation for the same offense before the Comelec law department.
In October 2013, Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. authored House Bill No. 2362 seeking to increase the candidates’ campaign spending limit from P10 to P30 for the top two election posts and also P30—from P3—for senatorial candidates.
In his measure, other candidates will be allowed to spend P20 per registered voter instead of the current rate of P3.