Long-overdue campaign financing laws and system change needed to make democracy work FOR Filipinos

Former Ambassador and Manila Times columnist writes in his piece “For the funds of it” today about “one of the main reasons – other than megalomania – why so many seem to want to run for Philippine electoral posts, even for national posts.” For the most part, Tiglao points out, “It’s an income-generating project.” The inference to the Ping Lacson – Tito Sotto tandem is there for everyone to read.

The phrase describes the strange phenomenon in Philippine elections in which candidates, except for the very rich, end up richer after an election, whether they win or lose.

The practice has been institutionalized for the longest time. It may have been prevalent in past Presidential contests where there was a high element of political instability but this time around, with an Opposition in its death throes, what would the public’s alternative be if there was no Lacson-Sotto to put up a challenge against the administration? It’s no secret that politics is a lucrative “profession” in the country. This is specially true at the local level among Governors, Mayors and Congressmen. Political contributions are invested in legitimate businesses which provides employment and tax revenues for the government. Ask any elected official and this is their usual defense against allegations of corruption.

Running for the two highest posts in the land is not easy during normal times. It is more difficult now in the middle of the pandemic. The incumbent Vice-President Leni Robredo refuses to admit the fact that she has no financial backing for a Presidential campaign because of her image problem even if her survey numbers are higher than Lacson’s. This is the essence of democracy; the freedom to choose in a manner where the people make their choices known through the ballot. In comparison, a federal parliamentary system is less expensive for the candidate and the public. Why? A Prime Minister can be voted out of office for loss of confidence. Continuity can also be ensured and lawmaking an easier process because Cabinet Ministers are also members of parliament. The 1987 Constitution is but the justification for the continuing existence of oligarchs and corruption in government, if you think about it. How much do taxpayers spend annually for the Senate and the House of Representatives? A system consisting of regional parliaments and a single national parliament is cheaper, more effective, and allows the direct participation of constituents.

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It is crucial for the public to have a choice in the 2022 election. The people are wary of the Opposition’s intransigent attitude towards the administration. There are those in the Opposition who would vote for a viable alternative. There are also those who are disaffected with the administration. This can’t be denied. Each individual has an opinion. This is the basic principle of a democracy no matter how flawed. But there is definitely room for improvement. Hopefully once the Lacson-Sotto tandem makes public their platform, federalism and charter change find their place in it. Lacson’s Budget Reform for Village Empowerment Bill (BRAVE) actually makes development funds available for the provinces down to the barangay level that are not subject to the control of the national government. This prevents the politicization of the release of funds from the national budget which is traditionally under the control of the Executive and the Congressmen by way of the Internal Revenue Allotment and the pork barrel. It is a budget reform measure aimed at minimizing corruption and ensuring funds are spent for the benefit of the constituents.

The more stringent reform measure to prevent politicians from running “for the funds of it” as the former Ambassador puts it, is the enactment of a campaign finance law which would allow the public to contribute to candidates campaigns directly. Current campaign finance provisions in the Omnibus Election Code are a joke. Every Juan knows that campaign spending reports are doctored to comply with the law. Delay in submission means disqualification but look at what happened in 2016 when then Comelec Chair Andy Bautista granted the Liberal Party an “extension” to prevent disqualification. This is not provided for under the Omnibus Election Code and then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed suit against the Comelec but nothing came out of it anymore. Maybe we are really better off under an authoritarian government but while we are in a democracy, there is no other choice but to be politically pragmatic.

One Reply to “Long-overdue campaign financing laws and system change needed to make democracy work FOR Filipinos”

  1. You need more than campaign finance laws and system change. You need an educated voter to make a democracy work, which you don’t have. Until then, forget it.

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