Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Regulated poll spending sought

By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
Updated March 17, 2010
12:00 AM

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=558738&publicationSubCategoryId=63

MANILA, Philippines - Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate Franklin Drilon vowed to push for the amendment of election laws to effectively regulate campaign expenses of those seeking public office to level the playing field.

“I have been involved in seven national elections and this year’s election campaign is the most expensive that I have ever witnessed,” the former Senate president said.

Drilon had a falling out with President Arroyo in July 2005, at the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal.

He was a former ally of Mrs. Arroyo, and even offered his 4hometown Iloilo City to be the place where the President would hold office during the time when critics were calling for her ouster on suspicion that she cheated in the May 2004 polls.

Drilon said it was deplorable how rich candidates “achieve greater media mileage” with loads of television infomercials and political advertisements shown prior to the official campaign period, placing the poorer candidates at a great disadvantage when the official campaign period starts.

Another LP senatorial candidate, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, said Congress should immediately consider enacting the campaign finance reform bill pending in both the House and the Senate.

“The current system makes it possible for criminally-financed candidates who benefit from drug money or kidnap for ransom activities to practically buy their way into office,” Biazon said.

Candidate Neric Acosta, on the other hand, calls for a regulation of campaign spending to level the playing field among political parties.

Drilon said if elected back to the Senate, he would propose the amendment of existing election laws “to cover the loopholes that are being gravely abused by rich candidates with limitless campaign resources.”

Under present laws, TV infomercials and political advertisements featuring a would-be candidate are not considered part of his or her campaign, as long as they are made before the start of the campaign period.

Because of this, Drilon said rich candidates could spend as much money as they want in pre-campaign period infomercials and advertisements to achieve better media exposure, at the expense of other candidates with very little resources.

Without naming names, Drilon apparently referred to Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar Jr., who made billions in the real estate sector, but who, according to estimates, have already spent around P4 billion in campaign expenses.

Sources say Villar - whose declared conjugal assets with wife Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar is just P1 billion - is willing to spend as much as P10 billion to win this election, and would still retain his lifestyle, win or lose.

Leveling the playing field

“Worse, candidates who were incumbent public officials prior to filing their certificates of candidacy may even use government funds to advance their own campaign, giving rise to possible commission of graft,” he added.

The former Senate president said he would work for the passage of remedial legislation that would consider infomercials and advertisements shown before the official campaign period as part of the candidate’s campaign expenses and subject to the airtime limits prescribed under the Fair Election Act.

He also explained that his proposed amendatory law would also seek to prevent government officials from using government funds to finance their campaign.

If the infomercials show government officials who subsequently file their certificates of candidacy, then a conclusive presumption can be inferred that such government official intended to use these infomercials to serve his own purposes, and may thus be liable for graft. - Delon Porcalla

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=558738&publicationSubCategoryId=63

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