Bill: Ban political fundraising in gov't offices
MANILA, Philippines – Tired of seeing city and barangay halls used by a candidate for fundraising purposes? This practice may soon be over, if a proposed bill in the Senate gets approved.
Senate Bill 1996, filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, seeks to prohibit fundraising activities in any government office for political purposes before and during the election period to promote the candidacy of any person seeking public office.
"Government offices and premises, as long as their establishment and maintenance are paid out of public funds, should be devoted entirely to the performance of public service," said Santiago in the explanatory note for SB 1996. The premises of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) are included in the proposed ban.
It would amend Section 97 of the Omnibus Election Code, which prohibits soliciting contributions and raising funds through activities like bingo games and lotteries for a candidate's campaign during the election period.
The bill also promotes fair elections by eliminating the advantage of incumbent officials over the use of government-owned facilities.
"Section 97 talks about the nature of the [banned] fund-raising activity. The amendment talks about where you conduct it," said committee on electoral reforms chairman Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III in a Senate hearing on Tuesday, March 4.
But lawyers from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that the proposed amendment is already covered by the election code, under Section 261(o)(3) of Article XXII, which prohibits the use of "any equipment, vehicle, facility, apparatus, or paraphernalia owned by the government... for any election campaign or for any partisan political activity."
Pimentel noted that the prohibition in the use of government offices is absolute. But some in the committee hearing asked: If the candidate can pay rent for its use, why prohibit them?
"Maybe we could put a clause there, which says that as long as the use of the office is paid for, it is legal. Some government facilities can be rented or leased. Therefore, if the candidate or the party did so, it's not illegal," said Maricor Akot of election watchdog AES Watch.
Ramon Casiple, chairman of the Consortium on Electoral Reforms (CER), also pointed out an issue on the period of coverage of the prohibition.
"We know the start of the election and campaign periods, but when does 'before the election period' start?" he asked.
Pimentel also wondered if the ban on the use of government-owned premises can also be extended to campaign meetings and other election-related gatherings.
Other proposed amendments to the OEC discussed on Tuesday were the following:
- SB 874 (by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada), providing for a clear and distinct provision on the filing of petition to annul the proclamation of winning candidates
- SB 1527 (by Sen. Estrada), modifying the appeal process in election contests, designating appellate jurisdiction to Comelec over election protests, and disallowing execution of judgment pending appeal in electoral cases
- SB 1716 (by Sen. Santiago), making it compulsory for Congress to declare a President-elect and Vice President-elect even if a failure of election is declared in some polling places