Manila Bulletin - House approves 500% to 1,000%-increase in election campaign expenditures

By Ben Rosario | Manila Bulletin

The House of Representatives authorized on Monday, June 1, a huge adjustment in election campaign expenditures for all future poll exercises.

With 213 members voting in the affirmative and six in the negative, House Bill 6095 was approved on third and final reading. One member abstained in the voting.

HB 6095 will amend Section 13 of Republic Act No. 7166 or the Synchronized National and Local Elections Law that authorized candidates for president, vice president, and senator to limit campaign expenditures to P10 per registered voter.

Consolidating six legislative measures, the bill grants a presidential and vice presidential candidate a maximum campaign limit of P50 for each qualified voter, increasing it by 500 percent.

For local positions, including congressional bets, allowable campaign expenditures increased from P3 to P30 for every voter currently registered in the constituency or a 1,000-percent increase.

The bill also allows political parties to allocate the equivalent of P50 and P30 for national and local bets, respectively, for every registered voter. Current cost is P3 per voter.

Effectively, a candidate running for a national position will be allowed to spend P100 for each of the registered voters to finance the campaign.

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Cavite Rep. Juliet Ferrer said the increase in campaign expenses to a more realistic level will encourage bets to “declare their true and actual election campaign expenses” as required by law.

Authors include Reps. Jocelyn Fortuno (NPC, Camarines Sur); Henry Oaminal (PDP-Laban, Misamis Oriental); Lorna Silverio (NPC, Bulacan); and Johnny Pimentel (PDP-Laban, Surigao del Norte).

In seeking the passage of the measure, Fortuno cited the disqualification of former Laguna Gov. E.R. Ejercito for alleged election overspending. Ejercito won the 2016 gubernatorial race but was stripped of his position by the poll body.

“Is the authorized campaign expenditures for candidates and political parties still realistic in the light of economic developments that had eroded the purchasing power of the Philippine peso?” Fortuno asked.

Oaminal cited the same reason for filing House Bill 3838.

“The loud and growing clamor to adjust the poll spending cap did not only come from candidates, political parties, and Comelec, but even from international election observers,” Oaminal said.

However, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas raised strong opposition to the measure, pointing out that the increase in campaign expenditures further widened the gap between rich and ordinary candidates.

“This measure distorts the already skewed election in favor of the rich candidates,” said Brosas.