FOR THE FIRST TIME in Philippine electoral history, a politician has been removed from office for overspending during his campaign.
In what appears to be a message to all politicians, candidates, and political parties that it is now strictly enforcing the rules on campaign finance, the Commission on Elections has ordered the removal from office of Laguna Governor Emilio ‘ER’ Ejercito. The Comelec First Division ruled that Ejercito was guilty of breaching the campaign spending limits defined in the Omnibus Election Code.
The decision is not yet final and executory, and may be appealed by Ejercito before the Comelec en banc within five days.
The decision was based on documents that were submitted to the Comelec by both Ejercito’s camp, as well as media agencies that had been contracted by Ejercito for his election campaign.
Under the law, local officials may only spend P3 per registered voter in the locality they are running in. Given Laguna’s voting population, Ejercito would only be allowed to spend P4 million for his campaign.
However, advertising contracts and other documents submitted by media agencies to the Comelec showed that Ejercito had spent up to ten times the allowed amount.
Comelec officials say this is the first time that any candidate has been disqualified from public office for violating Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, which penalizes excess spending.
The Commission had only started enforcing campaign finance laws more strictly during the May 2013 elections, after the Comelec created a Campaign Finance Unit in 2012. Prior to that, many candidates and political parties openly flouted the law or ignored the rules on campaign finance. The Comelec had warned candidates as early as 2012 that they would be penalized if they violate campaign finance laws.
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