Comelec taps LENTE for campaign finance monitoring

Media Coverage,Press April 6, 2013 11:52 PM

Source: Yahoo! News (Published 4 April 2013)

The Commission on Elections has tapped the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) to help it implement its campaign finance regulations in the May 13 elections.

Acting as legal consultants and civil society partner, LENTE will augment the limited financial and human resources of Comelec in monitoring the candidates’ election spending. Under a memorandum of agreement signed on April 1, functions given to LENTE include:

  • Raising public awareness on campaign finance and regulations

  • Conduct workshops and trainings for volunteer campaign finance monitors

  • Assist Comelec in briefing candidates and political parties on campaign finance rules

  • Organize complaints desk, roving teams and call centers on election day

  • Monitor progress of complaints

  • Participate in the audit of disclosure reports and records

LENTE Acting Executive Director Luie Tito Guia said campaign finance is important because it has a direct connection with governance as he noted how expenditure limits are “blatantly violated.”

“Kung minsan mahigit sampung beses kaysa sa suswelduhin nila sa tatlong taon yung kanilang gastos e bakit ganun (Sometimes the money spent on campaigns are ten times bigger than what they will earn in salaries in three years. Why does that happen?),” Guia, a lawyer said.

It is also important to know where candidates get their campaign funds and how they are influenced by their financiers.

Guia said the engaging the public’s help can be a new concept in election management where the Comelec need not increase its manpower or bureaucracy but engage the public to make the elections more accountable.

RA 9006 or the Fair Election Act limits the expenditure of candidates with political parties to P3 pesos for every voter in his or her constituency. Political parties, independent candidates and party-list groups are allowed to spend P5 per voter.

With around 52 million voters, campaign spending is limited to P156 million for senatorial candidates with political parties and P260 million for political parties, independents and party-lists.

Campaign finance violations are subject to election offense cases which carry a penalty of up to six years in prison.

The poll body originally asked LENTE to file for accreditation as a citizens’ arm but later allowed them in as civil society partner, a status which required a less complicated accreditation process.

The reconsideration was made because of the Comelec’s “urgent need to educate the electorate, candidates and parties on the significance of campaign finance laws and how to comply with them,” said Commissioner Christian Robert Lim in a memorandum.

Comelec has accredited four citizens’ arm for the 2013 elections: the National Movement for Free Elections, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, One Vote, and Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (Citizens CARE).—Mikha Flores, VERA Files

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