Disclose poll expenses, activists tell Aquino

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
President Benigno Aquino III 'presumably' used public funds to campaign for administration bets, critics say

ILLEGAL CAMPAIGNING? In February, groups accuse President Benigno Aquino III of using government funds to push for the administration's senatorial bets. File photo by Gil Nartea/Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III should disclose the amount of public funds he spent to campaign for the administration’s senatorial ticket, a leftist group said Monday, June 17.

“It is assumed that when he attended sorties, he was using public funds,” said Kontra Daya convenor Renato Reyes Jr in a statement issued a few days after the deadline for reporting campaign contributions and expenditures.

Reyes said Aquino “presumably” paid for his transportation, security detail, and other expenses in Team PNoy sorties using public funds. He noted his attendance in campaign sorties “of course are not necessarily connected with the functions of his office.” 

“In the spirit of transparency, a proper accounting should be made,” Reyes said.

Responding to Kontra Daya’s statement, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a text message to Rappler: “The President’s engagements are planned months in advance. The campaign worked its schedule around the President’s official engagements.”

Team PNoy campaign manager Sen Franklin Drilon reiterated this: “We asked for PNoy’s presence in accordance with the official schedule. For example, when PNoy was scheduled to inspect the new airport for Cagayan de Oro in Languindingan, we took the opportunity to ask him to attend the Team Pnoy rally in CDO. We had a rally in Samar when PNoy was there to inaugurate the newly built port facilities of the PPA (Philippine Ports Authority). In Cebu, the President was the guest in the inauguration of Megaworld’s project, thus we scheduled Team Pnoy rallies in Cebu on said date. The expenses incurred for the President’s security, etc, were because of his official governance functions, not the Team Pnoy sorties.”

Illegal distribution?

Two days after the official campaign period started in February, activists filed an appeal before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate Aquino for his alleged use of government funds to campaign for administration bets.

Critics said Aquino, through his local allies, allegedly distributed Philhealth cards and 3 kilos of rice to indigents on February 14. The Palace, however, denied the claim that it uses the national health insurance program for the administration’s campaign.

The Omnibus Election Code, under Section 261 (o), prohibits the “use of public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, and facilities owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign.”

Specifically, the code prohibits any person from using the following for election campaigns: 

  • “public funds or money deposited with, or held in trust by, public financing institutions or by government offices, banks, or agencies;

  • “any printing press, radio, or television station or audio-visual equipment operated by the government or by its divisions, sub-divisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations, or by the Armed Forces of the Philippines; or

  • “any equipment, vehicle, facility, apparatus, or paraphernalia owned by the government or by its political subdivisions, agencies including government-owned or controlled corporations, or by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for any election campaign or for any partisan political activity.”

Last week, politicians submitted their statements of election contributions and expenditures (SOCEs) to the Comelec, revealing their funders and the amounts they actually spent. – Rappler.com 

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com