Comelec eyes people's watch on campaign spend

Posted at 11/09/2012 10:23 AM | Updated as of 11/09/2012 5:31 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday said it is planning to tap civil society groups to monitor expenditures of political parties and candidates in the 2013 elections.

Speaking to ANC’s Headstart, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said he does not want a repeat of the case of one politician who used his excess contributions to buy a house in the United States.

“There was a report once that somebody got so much contribution and they said he brought properties with the excess contributions in the United States and that was open to the public. That is wrong. You cannot declare that and say I used it to buy properties. He should have returned it. Ethics demanded that he return it to the donors pero hindi sinoli e,” he said.

Brillantes said he sees no problem with politicians who declare that they have excess campaign contributions. However, he said excess donations should be declared as income and should be taxed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

He also said the poll body does not have enough people to screen all contributions and expenditures done during the campaign period. He said the task is usually relegated to the Comelec law department, which only has 12-14 lawyers.

He said one idea is to tap groups such as Namfrel and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting to monitor the campaign expenses and check with documents submitted to the Comelec after the elections
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“Right now, this is done by our law department. We are low in manpower in the law department. We are looking at volunteers to review these contributions and expenditures, maybe ask civil society groups to help us para ma-monitor lahat and check if they really submitted a correct list of contributions and expenditures and go after those who do not,” he said.

The Comelec chief said candidates or parties who submit incorrect statements on their campaign contributions and expenses are liable for perjury.

“At least meron kaming charge like perjury because these are under oath. It may not be an election offense anymore but we can charge them with perjury if they submit a statement that is not correct or totally false,” he said.

He said that under the Omnibus Election Code, even donors are required to report to the Comelec their actual donations to candidates or parties.

The poll chief said one problem faced by Comelec is that losing candidates often do not submit a list of campaign contributions and expenses after the elections. He said the losing candidates are fined from P3,000 to P20,000.

He also said 2 Comelec Commissioners, Grace Padaca and Armando Velasco, are studying the campaign finance system in the United States.