THE TREASURER OF the ruling Liberal Party has acknowledged what many civil society and election watchdog groups have suspected all along – most of the campaign expenditure reports submitted to the Commission on Elections are inaccurate and unreliable.
Mindoro Oriental Governor Alfonso Umali Jr. made the admission during the seminar-workshop for reporters, editors, and producers held by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism at the Bayview Hotel in Manila. The seminar titled “Covering the 2013 elections: Uncovering campaign finance, local power, and governance,” aims to empower journalists with the tools to investigate campaign finance issues.
Unali said the current laws on election spending are absurd and unrealistic. Candidates for local positions are only allowed to spend three pesos for every registered voter in his constituency if he is supported by a political party; and five pesos per registered voter if he is running as an independent. Political parties in turn are allowed to spend five pesos per voter for their candidates.
Candidates running for national positions are given more flexibility in spending though, as they are running before a national constituency of 50 million voters.
For example, Umali said that if he runs for governor in a province that has 450,000 registered voters, he would only be allowed to spend P1.35 million for the entire campaign.
“Aaminin ko po… (the election spending reports submitted) are not true,” Umali told the participants in the seminar.
Umali added that because of the “unrealistic” spending limits, “naglolokohan lang talaga tayo.”
Asked later if he was making these statements as Liberal Party Treasurer, Umali said he was making them based only on personal experience. As party treasurer, Umali is one of those tasked with preparing the donation and spending reports, formally known as the statement of election contributions and expenditures (SECE), that the party submits to the Commission on Elections.
Umali added that based on his experience, not even half of the election spending and contribution reports submitted by candidates to the Comelec are truthful. For this reason, Umali said that Congress may as well amend the election spending limits to something much more realistic.