August 10, 2010 · Posted in: 2010 Elections

Auditing the 2010 elections

Our latest offering is a three-part report on our audit of the Statement of Electoral Contribution and Expenditure (SECE) that the top candidates for president and vice president in May 2010 elections had filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Over the last two months, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) had worked on this, a project that tested our patience, stamina and humor to the hilt. The effort, after all, entailed poring over innumerable pages of numbers and facts that the candidates had enrolled as the expenditures they had supposedly incurred, and the donations that they had supposedly received.

These numbers have had to be validated and cross-referenced, however, with other inestimable sets of numbers. One was the contracts and telecast orders that the candidates, the political parties, and their representatives had signed with media agencies. Another was Nielsen’s monitoring of political ads that aired during the official 90-day campaign period for national candidates.

The clutter of data would not mean much if only the candidates did right by the laws on campaign spending limits, which are sadly, largely gray and untested. And absent any vigorous efforts by the Comelec to audit the SECEs, not a single candidate has been convicted for violation of campaign finance laws.

Indeed, the issues hang: Did our candidates for high office, notably those who won and now govern us, tell the truth in their SECEs? If they did not, is it ever all right for them to lie, cheat and bluff every election season? And finally, what can or must the Comelec do to end the charade of money and politics in our land?

The costliest ever in Philippine electoral history, the May 10, 2010 elections was for various reasons also a grand spectacle of lies, half-truths, and concealed truths foisted on the Filipino voters.

These reasons include:

  • Porous campaign-finance laws and inconsistent interpretation of the specific provisions by the Comelec;
  • The negligence and inability of the Comelec to enforce these laws for reported lack of trained manpower, time and resources;
  • An apparent pattern among most candidates, political parties, and their representatives to circumvent the laws in a “knowing and willful” manner;
  • A patent conspiracy among candidates, political parties, party-list groups, and donors to defy the laws; and
  • Uneven compliance by media agencies and service contractors with their reporting duties.

Overspending, misreporting, concealment of facts by the top candidates for president, vice president, and their political parties and associated party-list groups – these are among the findings of the PCIJ’s audit of election expense reports that the top candidates had subscribed and sworn to be true and accurate.

Part 1 of our report summarizes our review of the half-truths and concealed facts in the election spending reports filed by candidates for president Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Manuel B. Villar Jr., Joseph Estrada, Gilberto C Teodoro Jr.; candidates for vice president Manuel Roxas II, Loren Legarda and Jejomar Binay; and their political parties.

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