MANILA - The camp of disqualified Laguna Governor ER Ejercito is challenging the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to show proof that the governor overspent in the May 2013 elections.
Lawyer Enrique dela Cruz said Ejercito's spending was well within the allowed amount and the Comelec has not shown any documents proving otherwise.
Comelec records showed Ejercito spent P23.5 million during the campaign, way beyond his authorized campaign limit of P4.5 million or P3 each for 1,525,522 voters.
Dela Cruz, however, said Ejercito only declared spending P4.1 million in his political ads.
"The other receipts that the Comelec is referring to are not even in his name. If it is a contract with ABS-CBN, we should ask ABS-CBN to whom did they contract with? Did they contract with Governor ER? It is easily verifiable," he said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
He said the contract of Ejercito's alleged political ads was not offered during the Comelec hearings. This meant that Ejercito was unable to contest or verify the contract or if the ads were placed with or without his consent.
Dela Cruz also pointed out the original petition by Ejercito's rival, Egay San Luis, did not seek Ejercito's disqualification. He said the complaint wanted Ejercito criminally charged.
The lawyer said that in US jurisprudence, political ads that are "donated" to a candidate are considered part of freedom of expression and cannot be regulated.
He said these ads cannot be considered part of the candidate's expenses especially if he/she does not know about it.
"If somebody prints 100 t-shirts in support of a candidate and distributes it, will the candidate be disqualified for overspending if he didn't know about these t-shirts?" he asked.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillanes earlier said that under the law, a candidate can be found guilty of overspending whether or not the ads he used in the campaign were donated or paid for from his own pocket.
"Yes, he didn't pay for it. It was a donation to him. However, the law on campaign finance does not mention the source of the money. What is being discussed here is how much was spent. If a donor donated P1 billion, can you spend that one billion? No. The limitation is still P4.5 million," he said.
"Yung binigay sa kanyang TV ads, he accepted it. He should have said: 'Give me P4.5 million and not P6 million.'"
Dela Cruz said Ejercito cannot verify if the donated ads came from friends because he has not seen the ad contracts or receipts. "The Comelec has to show those contracts and receipts," he said.
The lawyer said there must be a "final finding of fact" of either overspending or vote-buying before Ejercito can be disqualified. He said that under the law, any decision by the Comelec can be questioned before the Supreme Court within 30 days.
Dela Cruz said Ejercito will only step down if there is an order from the Supreme Court.
"Hindi ba dapat igalang ang Supreme Court? The fact na hindi dinissmiss... is a bright prospect at sinabi naman ni Governor ER na kung ano man ang maging desisyun ng Supreme Court, kusa po siya baba," he said.