MANILA, Philippines – Legislators have opposed the proposed constitutional amendment that would regulate campaign spending and contributions, calling it "stupid" and "unrealistic."
On Wednesday, February 19, several members of the House committee on constitutional amendments opposed the proposal of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Federalism and Constitutional Reform to create a democracy fund that would serve as a repository of all campaign funds and contributions.
“I am suggesting we defer the inclusion of this proposed amendment because it is very restrictive. Not only very restrictive; it is unrealistic. We know very well that campaigns are expensive,” said Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel.
The Surigao del Sur 2nd District congressman explained that candidates, especially those who have lots of resources and campaign contributors, tend to spend millions to woo voters.
“Now this Section 4 proposes that the state shall regulate the expenses and even the contributions. Pati contribution, pakikialaman na! Eh nangangailangan nga tayo ng contribution every candidate (They're meddling with the contributions! But every candidate needs these contributions)!” Pimentel said.
Under the IATF’s proposed amendments, citizens who contribute between P10,000 to P100,000 to any registered political party or presidential candidate through the democracy fund would be entitled to taxable income deductions during that election year.
Under the proposal, a party development fund for “qualified and registered political parties” would also be established for party strengthening and campaigns.
The IATF believes the proposals would help curb cases of vote-buying and electoral fraud in the country.
But Kabayan Representative Ron Salo opposed this, arguing that the language of the proposed amendment leaves out party-list groups.
“Assuming that we would pursue this, I was just wondering why the party list again is lost in the translation, in the sense that if they are talking about campaign assistance, who needs it most? It’s the marginalized and the underrepresented, and not those who actually already have the power and money,” Salo said.
Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay Jr also said having a party development fund would lead to a “political industry” that may be easily abused, since it would be up to Congress to create this fund.
“That will encourage a new industry; a political industry because there would be a development fund coming from the government. Just like what Deputy Speaker Pimentel said, this is really a stupid proposal,” said the Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative.
The House committee on constitutional amendments was supposed to vote on the IATF's proposed amendments on Wednesday, but Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez, the panel chairperson, said they "could not rush" this since several members still wanted to go through every provision.