MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to issue stricter rules to improve monitoring of campaign expenditures in the coming 2016 polls.
A draft omnibus rules on campaign finance the poll body presented on Monday, August 3, includes requiring local and national candidates to immediately report expenses incurred in campaign rallies.
The proposal requires candidates to fill out a form for Statement of Expenses on Public Rally and submit them not later than 7 days after the political gathering.
Failure to comply will be considered an election offense.
These campaign rallies also have to be reported to the Comelec field offices not later than 3 working days before the event. A Notice of Public Rally should be submitted.
The new rules were presented in public consultations that Comelec conducted in the cities of Manila, Cebu, and Davao.
Soft copies of SOCE
Comelec also wants candidates to submit both hard and soft copies, in Microsoft Excel format, of the Statement of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE).
Handwritten submissions shall no longer be allowed. Supporting documents like receipts will be accepted in PDF format.
This move is meant to comply with the government's open data policy, making public documents available and searchable online.
The Comelec said it will strictly implement a final, non-extendible deadline for the submission of SOCEs. Candidates only have until June 8, 2016, or 30 days after the polls, to file SOCEs, as prescribed by law.
In the 2013 polls, the Comelec extended the filing of SOCEs to June 30, or 48 days after that year's midterm elections.
Even losers must file
Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim stressed that the filing of SOCEs is a must, even if the candidate lost, did not receive, or did not spend anything during the campaign period.
Non-compliant bets and late-filers will be slapped administrative fines ranging from P10,000 for municipal councilor bets to P30,000 for presidential candidates for the first offense. Fines are doubled for the second offense.
The Comelec said repeated non-compliance of candidates, political parties, and party-list groups on the submission of SOCEs is a ground for their perpetual disqualification or cancellation of registration.
Calendar of activities
The Comelec also proposed an early start of the campaign period – on January 10 or 120 days before the polls on May 9, 2016 – in an attempt to combat premature campaigning.
The filing of certificates of candidacy will be from October 12 to 16, 2015.
In December, the Comelec will conduct again a raffle to determine the order of listing of party-list groups on the official ballot.
This was first done for the 2013 elections, to avoid what happened in past elections, where the names of many party lists start with "A" or "1" so that they would appear first alphabetically on the ballot.
Lim said that the Comelec's draft calendar of activities presupposes that an automated election will take place in 2016.
Winning candidates will be issued a Certificate of Formal Compliance (CFC), a requirement for him or her to assume office, upon their submission of SOCEs and after passing an initial compliance check.
But the Comelec clarified that the said certificate "shall only attest to the receipt of the SOCE and its attachments, but not as to the veracity of its contents." (RELATED: 36 candidates face charges for overspending in 2010, 2013)
A list of winning candidates who assumed office without a CFC will be given to the Department of the Interior and Local Government and to Congress, which have the authority to remove said candidates from office, explained the Comelec.
The poll body also reminded that corporations incorporated under the Corporation Code of the Philippines are prohibited to give donations to any political party or candidate or for purposes of partisan political activity. Violations will be referred to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Comelec set guidelines on granting requests for exception from the ban on public works as well as from the release and disbursement of public funds, as covered by Section 261 (v) and (w) of the Omnibus Election Code.
These omnibus rules will be monitored and implemented by the Comelec's Campaign Finance Office (CFO), replacing its Campaign Finance Unit.
Participants in the public consultation session are asked by the Comelec to submit their position papers on the omnibus rules by Friday, August 7. – Rappler.com