Comelec sharpens teeth of election laws

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


THERE are four laws that govern campaign finance during elections.

These are: the Omnibus Election Code; Republic Act 6646 or the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987; Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Election Law; and Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Practices Act.

In order to give more weight to the laws, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc promulgated last June 22, 2012, Resolution No. 9476 or the Rules and Regulations Governing Campaign Finance and Disclosure in the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections and Subsequent Elections Thereafter.

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The Comelec, itself, acknowledged that there is problem in the campaign finance law.

In the case of Central Visayas, no less than Comelec 7 Director Temie Lambino admitted that candidates submit their statements of campaign expenses (Soce) for the sake of submitting. No one can follow the provisions of the laws enacted decades ago, it is “archaic,” said Lambino.

According to the Fair Election Act, local candidates with a political party are only authorized to spend P3 for every registered voter, while political parties are allowed to spend P5 for every registered voter.

Independent candidates are authorized to spend P5 for every registered voter.

The June 2012 resolution of the Comelec provides for the creation of the campaign
finance unit, which has the role of monitoring fund-raising and spending activities.

It is supposed to put teeth to the laws as the unit will receive the Soce, reports from donors and election contractors and advertising contracts and logs.

The unit will then compile and analyze the reports if, indeed, the authorized spending cap was followed.

The report of the campaign finance unit will be made available to the public.

But who will comprise the campaign finance unit?

According to the records of the Comelec 7, Cebu has 2,509,520 registered voters with only 140 election officers and election assistants. Cebu has the largest number of registered voters among the 80 provinces in the country.

Comelec officers are already wanting of personnel now that each employee has his or her hands full with election-related duties.

Cebu City

In the Cebu City north district, there are 11 Comelec staff including the election officer and assistant for the 34 voting centers and 248,292 registered voters. In the south district, there are 10 staffers, including the election officer and election assistant covering 36 voting centers with 299,389 registered voters.

Comelec 7 has nine staffers, including Lambino, while the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor has 10.

Lapu-Lapu City has five election staffers for 248,292 registered voters.

Ginatilan does not have a lot of registered voters, only 10,168 and it only has one election personnel—an assistant election officer also acting as election officer.

Then there is also the challenge on how to go on about the implementation.

“The challenge is we don’t have absolute procedure on how to investigate and how to implement that kind of procedure,” said Lambino.

Investigation entails technical expertise so that trainings should have been done for the said campaign finance units.

But if the law is hard to implement and most, if not all, candidates don’t abide by it, why was it passed in the first place?

Former Comelec executive assistant to then chairman Christian Monsod (1992-1995),
lawyer Luie Tito Guia, said the laws were meant to equalize election prospects.

There are rich candidates and there are richer candidates.

Putting a cap in election spending equalizes the playing field among candidates.

But candidates have ways of going around the cap without being legally charged.

The question of whether Comelec can finally enforce the laws on campaign finance remains to be seen.

The Soce is submitted a month after the elections. Winning candidates cannot assume office without the Soce.

Losing candidates still need to submit a Soce, but an election official admitted it is hard to go after that person when he is not in office, the candidate could be anywhere after losing an election.

Statement

The Soce is an itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures during the elections. The document should have full names of donors including the taxpayer identification number. “Friends of…” cannot be used in the document.

According to the Omnibus Election Code, an election contribution is a “gift, donation, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money or anything of value,” that can be used by a candidate during elections.

Not everybody can contribute to a candidate. Those prohibited to donate in the campaign funds are: financial institutions, public utilities, government contractors or sub-contractors, franchisees, those granted loans from the government, educational institutions that received grants, foreigners and foreign institutions, civil service.

Yesterday, Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes Jr, tweeted: #Isumbong po sa @COMELECTV ang mga paglabag sa mga panuntunan ng pangampanya (Report any violations of campaign rules).

He subsequent tweets, he reminded candidates that the start of the campaign period, which is Tuesday for officials running for national positions, also marks that start of regulation of campaign propaganda and that includes the counting of campaign expenditure.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 12, 2013.

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