EDITORIAL - Campaign contributions
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2013 - 12:00am

The Commission on Elections wants 422 winners in last May’s polls to vacate their posts. This is for the officials’ failure to submit their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures or SOCE within 30 days after the election. The Comelec said the requirement is stipulated under Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Election Law of 1991 but it has never been implemented, until now.

RA 7166 states that elected officials cannot assume office until they have complied with the requirement. Some of the 422 officials identified by the Comelec clarified yesterday that they had submitted their SOCE, but the rest have not complied with the law. This may be due to the fact that the requirement has never been enforced, and violation does not constitute a crime that can warrant imprisonment or a fine.

The daang matuwid administration should support this effort to regulate campaign finance. Many corrupt deals germinate during election campaigns, when political debts are incurred. These debts are repaid by winning candidates through sweetheart deals or appointments even of the undeserving to public office. No agency enforces limits on campaign contributions, and the absence of regulation allows even jueteng lords and drug dealers to contribute to campaign war chests. Filipinos like to say that some candidates enter an election race simply “for the fund of it.”

Because of the potential for enormous personal profits, politicians have long resisted efforts to bring transparency to campaign finance. Now that the Comelec is trying to do something about it, the effort should be taken another step further. Requiring the submission of SOCEs as provided by law is just the first step. The law requires candidates to submit “the full, true and itemized” list of campaign contributions and expenditures. If the Comelec wants the requirement to be taken seriously, it must show that it can verify the accuracy of a submitted statement.

The Comelec can enlist the help of agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue to conduct random verification. Otherwise, the SOCE will be regarded like the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth that all public officials must file every year – a joke, until a chief justice was unseated for inaccuracies in his SALN.

BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE CAMPAIGN COMELEC ELECTION IF THE COMELEC LAW OFFICIALS REPUBLIC ACT STATEMENTS OF CONTRIBUTIONS AND EXPENDITURES SYNCHRONIZED ELECTION LAW
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