MANILA – A Malacañang official believed that it is no sin to accept money from politicians but a poll official said candidates giving the cash or gifts violate election laws.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said accepting cash donations are not bad for as long as church officials stand by their principle.
“If they (politicians) are not asking anything in return, maybe there is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
But Commission on Elections (Comelec) Director for Central Visayas Ray Rene Buac said the candidates violated section 104 of the Omnibus Election Code and can be accused of illegal campaigning for making cash donations.
Candidates who gave Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal cash or gifts in kind can be held liable for illegal campaigning and violating election laws, he said.
Gifts and cash donations to religious and civic groups are prohibited during the campaign period.
Vidal admitted that he accepted cash donations from several presidential candidates and other politicians.
He said the money goes to charities and not to his own pocket.
He added that it did not mean politicians have already bought his vote and support.
“I don’t think Cardinal Vidal will pledge something in exchange of the cash donations,” Olivar said.
The Palace official assured that the archbishop knows the consequence of his action and “he will always do the right thing.”
“He will not compromise his principle and his faith to God’s commandment. This is a matter for the priesthood and the church hierarchy to decide but I am very confident that the Church will do the right thing,” he said of Cardinal Vidal.
Olivar also reminded that politicians are Catholic people who practice giving donations to Church. “They want to contribute to the church and that money will be used by the church.”
However, Buac said it will be difficult to prosecute the erring candidates because the prelate did not name them and did not say when the donations were made.
“If the cardinal will not divulge the names, we can’t do anything about it. We also cannot force him to do so... But if the prosecutor’s office will have the courage to do it, they can summon the cardinal to reveal the names and execute an affidavit,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.
Buac said the prohibition on national candidates took effect at the start of the campaign period last Feb. 9. The same prohibition will also be imposed on local candidates when the official campaign period starts on March 26.
Convicted candidates will be disqualified from public office.
Citing provisions of the Election Code, Buac said the candidates can be held liable for violating the prohibition on any donation or giving of cash or gifts in kind to religious and civic organizations.
“The cardinal is not liable, but the candidate or his party is,” he said, adding that there is no offense on the part of the recipient.
He said even at this time, Comelec can receive a complaint from anyone who witnessed or heard the archbishop’s statement that some candidates gave him cash, but the respondents will have to be John Does since they were not identified.
Section 104 states the prohibited donations by candidates, treasurers of parties or their agents.
It states that “no candidate, his or her spouse or any relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, or his campaign manager, agent or representative shall during the campaign period, on the day before and on the day of the election, directly or indirectly, make any donation, contribution or gift in cash or in kind, or undertake or contribute to the construction or repair of roads, bridges schoolhouses, puericulture centers, medical clinics and hospitals, churches or chapels, cement pavements, or any structure for public use or for the use of any religious or civic organization.”
Buac said the prohibition applies even to non-religious groups like nongovernment organizations engaged in charity work or housing projects for the poor, as well as missions.
Excluded in the prohibition are the normal and customary religious dues or contributions, such as religious stipends, tithes or collections on Sundays or other designated collection days.
Periodic payments for legitimate scholarships established and school contributions habitually made before the prohibited period are also excluded.
“What the candidates did is considered illegal campaigning. Donation is part of campaigning but this has no effect kay wala man nganli ni cardinal (because the cardinal didn’t name them). If they were identified, any complainant can file a case but they have to be a witness and should have been present when the cardinal made the statement,” he continued.(Jill Beltran/LCR of Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)