Bill increasing candidates spending limit in polls pushed

MANILA To encourage transparency in reporting campaign expenses, the bill proposing an increase in the spending limit of candidates and political parties is due for floor deliberations in the Senate.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, said on Monday the measure which he himself had re-filed, was recently approved for floor deliberations.

Yet despite the increase in the cap in the campaign expenditures, Senate Bill No. 2072 proved that the amount to be spent "per voter" by candidates and political parties will have to remain conservative.

This is to discourage overspending and to ensure that all those participating in the poll exercise will compete on equal footing with other candidates, said Pimentel, also president of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

In the Committee Report No. 497, independent senatorial, party-list and other candidates may spend from PHP6 to PHP8 per voter.

Candidates who are running under a political party or being endorsed by political parties may spend PHP6 per voter, the report said.

For political parties, every voter currently registered in the constituency or constituencies where it has official candidates, the existing cap of PHP5 is increased to PHP8.

Under the bill, the aggregate amount that a candidate for president and vice president will remain at PHP10 for every voter.

In filing the bill which seeks to amend Section 13 of Republic Act 7166 or "An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms, Authorizing Appropriations Therefor, and for Other Purposes," Pimentel noted the existing rates are no longer realistic.

"For 25 years, the amounts limiting the expenses of candidates and political parties remained the same. Consequently, candidates had difficulty in trying to limit their spending in accordance with law because prices of materials and their printing and reproduction, mass media advertisements (which are now allowed), transportation and other operational expenses have noticeably increased in the past two decades," Pimentel said when he introduced the bill in 2016.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has in fact filed cases of overspending before the courts against 35 local candidates for the 2010 and 2013 elections, he said.

It only goes to show that candidates are struggling to spend within the allowable amounts provided by law, the senator said.

"The best way to address the concern of our candidates, especially the local candidates, therefore, is to increase the amount of their allowable political campaign expenditure," he said.

The measure will also be beneficial to the voting public since the increase in the allowable campaign expenditure may lead to better voter's education and awareness of the background and program of government or platform of the candidates, the senator said.

"We are doing this to help the local candidates who have difficulty in complying with the law. The local candidates are having trouble complying with the unreasonable amounts in the present law (unreasonable from the point of view of the local)," Pimentel said.

Aside from Pimentel, those who signed the report are senators Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Richard Gordon, Grace Poe, Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Majority Leader Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon. (Senate PR)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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