House seeks increase in local poll campaign expenditure


The increase in campaign expenditure cap per voter should be limited to local candidates, a House leader said on Friday.

House Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list made the stance a day after Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. called for a significant hike on the campaign expenditure threshold, presently limited to as measly as P3 per voter.

Under present law, candidates for president, vice president, senator and local posts belonging to a political party are limited to spending P3 per voter. A political party, on the other hand, is allowed to spend P5 per voter.

Independent candidates are at a disadvantage at this since they are only allowed to spend P5 per voter or P3 lesser than the candidates belonging to a political party.

“For district representatives, spending P3 per voter is low and unrealistic because of the high cost of campaign materials, logistics cost and cost of fuel compared to their total allowable amount since the multiplier base is small. But for those voted upon nationally like party-list representatives, senators, vice president and president, the P5 cap per voter would be sufficient because of the big number of voters used as its multiplier base,” Tugna, a lawyer, pointed out in a text message to The Manila Times.

The P5 cap for those who have national constituency, Tugna said, is already a competitive amount because national candidates’ campaign tend to focus on advocacy and name recall and a higher cap would push away competent but lesser known candidates.

“Increasing the cap on these national positions would all the more create in the minds of the citizenry that running for national office is only reserved for those who has so much money, thereby limiting entry of those who are qualified and has the passion to serve the country through public office,” Tugna added.

Belmonte, a veteran politician having served as Quezon City mayor and Quezon City representative, noted that the existing laws have become so outdated and has failed to serve their purpose.

“We can increase the limits on [campaign]spending to make it more realistic . . . so that when you see it [Statement of Campaign Expenses], you’d know that it reflects the correct amount. As it is, it’s too low because the limits were set many years ago. It has become ridiculous,” Belmonte argued.

“We can raise it to P20, P50 or P30, around that line. It is not a relaxation of rules, but a more realistic statement of what should be the limit of one’s campaign expenses,” Belmonte, a lawyer like Tugna, added.

The Speaker then furthered that he will ask Rep. Frednil Castro of Capiz province, the chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, to craft a bill that will serve such purpose.

Belmonte, however, would need to convince Castro to be on board.

“I am not in favor of that proposal because it will put poor candidates in a very disadvantageous position. It will be very hard for them to catch up with [the campaign spending of]the rich ones,” Castro said in a separate text message to The Manila Times.

“While the present cap is being circumvented by some, the restraint against overspending is still there. Under existing rules, overspending is not legitimized and licensed,” Castro added.


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