by Malou Mangahas

WHAT, in truth, is the status of the P37-million excess campaign donations that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III had declared in his report to the Commission on Elections.

PNoy’s spokespersons have offered three versions of the same story over the last year.

Which is the true and correct version? Go, figure:

VERSION 1: What P37-million excess campaign funds?
On June 17, 2010, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda was quoted in The Manila Bulletin, as saying there is no truth at all to the P37-million excess campaign funds. Here’s the story:

No P37-million excess poll funds – Noynoy camp
June 17, 2010, 4:47pm
“The camp of President-elect Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III has belied claims by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that it still has P37 million worth of excess campaign funds at hand.
Aquino’s spokesperson, Atty. Edwin Lacierda, said the funds left from their campaign kitty were already used to finance their camp’s printing of sample ballots, their poll watchers’ allowances, and their lawyers’ fees.
“These expenses are not required to be reported under the law because they are expenses incurred after May 8. So it is no longer true that there are funds still left from our campaign contributions,” Lacierda told reporters in an interview outside the residence of Aquino along Times Street in West Triangle, Quezon City.
Lacierda reiterated that the Comelec cannot compel them to include in its expenditure report the campaign materials contributed by their supporters, citing the difficulty to monitor the initiatives of campaign volunteers.
“Some tarpaulins, T-shirts, ballers etc. came from our volunteers. Those items did not pass through our office. It will be difficult to monitor them so we did not declare them. But what is certain is that all campaign contributions that we got and all expenses we made are all accounted for,” he said. “What we have control over is only what we spent and what we produced.”

Version 2: Excess funds had been returned to donors.
In two reply letters to the PCIJ’s queries about how the President spent the P37-million excess campaign funds, dated 29 June 2011 and 1 July 2011, Lacierda stated:

First letter dated June 29, 2011, signed by Lacierda and printed on the stationery of the Office of the President:

“Out of the Php36,930,018.19 (excess campaign donations), Php18,356,859.88 was remitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue representing 5% creditable withholding income tax on election related purchases. Please note that under Revenue Regulations No. 8-2009, all income payments made by political parties and candidates were subjected to 5% creditable withholding tax. Hence, political parties and candidates were under obligation to deduct and withhold 5% from all income payments to their suppliers during the campaign and remit the same to the (BIR).”
“The campaign also spent around Php4,000,000.00 for the printing of sample ballots that were distributed nationwide before the elections. This expenditure was not included in the (SECE) because under Section 101(k) of the Omnibus Election Code, the cost of printing sample ballots shall not be taken into account in determining the amount of expenditures which a candidate may lawfully incur in connection with his candidacy.”
“The rest of the excess campaign funds were actually returned to some of the donors who made substantial contributions to the campaign.”
Second letter dated July 1, 2011, emailed for Lacierda by his staff, Kristine Joanne D. Basa:
“Further to our email regarding President Aquino’s excess campaign contributions last Wednesday, June 29, 2011, please be informed that the donors to whom we returned a portion of their contributions to are the following:

“1. Atty. Fulgencio Factoran – He donated Php 20 million; We returned Php 10 million;
“2. Mr. Gerry Esquivel – He donated Php 10 million; We returned Php 2 million; and
“3. Dr. Alex Ayco – He donated Php 5 million; We returned Php 2 million.”

But on verification by the PCIJ, Factoran said on July 3, 2011: “Sinabi sa akin, baka balikan daw ako ng pera. May plano raw silang magbalik ng pera (I was told I may have money returned to me. They said they planned to return money).”
Asked when he was informed that he would be given back part of his P20-million campaign donations, Factoran replied: “Tinawagan nila staff ko, sinabihan na magbabalik daw sila ng pera (They called up my staff, saying they were going to return money).”

VERSION 3: Some excess campaign funds had been returned, some in process of being returned.
Statement of Lacierda’s deputy, Abigail Valte to reporters when asked about the PCIJ story, July 5, 2011. From a report by Amita O. Legaspi,

“At a press briefing, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said some of the funds have already been returned to the donors while some are in the process of being returned. She said some were used to pay taxes and other expenses.

“Hindi napunta kay Pangulong Aquino [yung excess fund],” Valte said. “The President understands well that those donations were made for the campaign and not to him personally.”

Valte was reacting to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) regarding the “missing” excess funds.

During Tuesday’s briefing, Valte pointed out that Aquino was the only presidential candidate in last year’s elections who declared an excess in campaign donations. She said they had a hard time liquidating some of the expenses that had no receipts.

“Meron pong expenses na ang hirap naman pong hanapan ng resibo, yung mga pamasahe ng mga messengers, kinain sa carinderia hindi mahingan ng resibo,” she said.”

The PCIJ also asked officials of the Commission on Elections, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the lawyers’ group Libertas, what the President could have done with the excess campaign funds, considering there was no law governing the usage of these funds. Excerpts from those interviews in the video below:

1 Response to No P37-M excess funds?
Returned? To be returned?


batang buotan

July 11th, 2011 at 11:44 pm

I feel uncomfortable with the inconsistencies. It looks like the truth is still lurking. This fuels our wild imagination. Where’s the money? Was it used to buy the President’s sports car? We don’t know – that’s why the President and his men should reconcile the inconsistencies.

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