Consultative Committee proposes 'democracy fund' for fair campaign financing

CAMPAIGN SEASON. In this file photo during the 2016 elections, a man walks past campaign banners of local politicians at Fairview in Quezon City. File photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

CAMPAIGN SEASON. In this file photo during the 2016 elections, a man walks past campaign banners of local politicians at Fairview in Quezon City.

File photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Consultative Committee (Con-Com) drafting a federal constitution is proposing the creation of a "democracy fund" designed to address unequal campaign funding and empower small political parties.

The "democracy fund" is part of the campaign finance reforms laid down in a new Article on Suffrage, Political Rights, and Political Parties that will be part of the draft constitution.

The proposed article was presented to media on Thursday, June 14.

The "democracy fund" is to be managed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and audited by the Commission on Audit.

In the article, Individuals and groups who donate funds get rewarded with tax cuts. 

Any citizen who contributes at least P10,000 but not more than P100,000 to any registered political party or presidential candidate through the fund "shall be allowed a full credit against tax due for the immediately preceding taxable year" following the elections they contributed for.

The same perks will apply to a corporation, partnership, or association that contributes at least P100,000 but not more than P3 million to the "democracy fund."

Only presidential candidates and political parties may directly be given a portion of the fund, based on criteria set by the Comelec, said Con-Com spokesman Conrado Generoso.

Candidates for other positions may only get a share of the fund from the portion given to their parties.

The citizen or group donating can specify to which political party or presidential candidate they want to give their funds. The Comelec is then duty-bound to forward these to that party or candidate.

The criteria to be used by Comelec on deciding who gets how much from the fund will be laid out in the draft charter's annotation.

The criteria include "need, party organization, and viability of candidacy," among others, said Generoso.

By "viability of candidacy," the Con-Com means funds should not go to candidates with "close to zero chance of winning," said Generoso.

However, concerns were raised about the Comelec's discretion on the "viability of candidacy" criterion. Among these is whether deciding on the "close to zero chance of winning" is already included in Comelec's power to weed out nuisance candidates. Another concern is if a partisan Comelec can use this criterion to block a candidate's access to funds.

Generoso said however that the intent of this criterion is to prevent cases in which the "democracy fund" is merely used to fatten the pockets of an individual who has no intention of winning the election.

"This is meant to avoid a candidate asking for a share just for (personal) fund-raising," said Generoso.

The fund is designed to ensure that even small political parties have the resources to carry out nationwide campaigns for their candidates. At present, it's only a small number of major political parties, backed by powerful political clans or wealthy businessmen, that dominate elections because they have the resources.

A section of the article even mandates that a "fair share" of the fund be allocated to women candidates.

Congress action needed

However, the proposed article also leaves it up to the proposed Federal Congress to craft legislation on campaign finance reforms.

"The Federal Congress shall amend or revise all laws governing election campaign financing, contributions and expenditures," reads Section 6 of the Article.

It also explicitly states that financial contributions from religious organizations, foreigners and foreign governments and illegal sources are prohibited. – Rappler.com

 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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