MANILA (UPDATE) - Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. said campaign finance laws will be strictly implemented in the upcoming 2013 elections.
Brillantes said that while Comelec has been somewhat relaxed in monitoring campaign spending in previous elections, the poll body will now be stricter.
"We are serious about regulating campaign finance, seryoso kami dito," Brillantes said in a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) briefing on Wednesday.
Comelec's Resolution 9476, promulgated in June this year, aims to regulate campaign spending and disclosure.
Brillantes said aside from campaign spending limit, Comelec will also be stricter in selecting party-list groups and nuisance candidates.
On Wednesday, Brillantes also announced that Ako Bicol and 12 other party-list groups have been disqualified.
He said around 40 more party-list groups may be disqualified in the coming days.
"Marami pang naiwan, marami pang magpapaalam sa partylist," said Brillantes.
Campaign spending cap
Senatorial, congressional and other local candidates registered under a political party are only authorized to spend P3 for every voter currently registered in the constituency where the candidate filed his or her certificate of candidacy.
Independent candidates without any support from any political party are only authorized to spend P5 for every voter registered in the constituency.
Political parties and party-list groups, meanwhile, may only spend P5 for every voter in the constituency.
However, Atty. Luie Guia, executive director of Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), believes that the cap on campaign spending is no longer applicable because it was set more than two decades ago.
Guia said campaign spending laws are often violated due to the lack of attention given to these laws.
He added that several proposals to adjust the spending limit have been lodged in Congress, but lawmakers have yet to act on them.
Even Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali Jr., the current treasurer of the Liberal Party, admitted on Wednesday that the statements of electoral contributions and expenses (SECE) submitted after the 2010 elections were inaccurate because the spending limit is not realistic.
"Kulang talaga eh, kahit kami nagdadagag eh. 'Yung sinasabing P3, imposible 'yun," he said.
Comelec also said it will strictly monitor the submission of the SECEs as required by law.
Comelec law department head Director Esmeralda Amora-Ladra said that in 2010, their records revealed that one presidential candidate, one vice-presidential candidate, 15 senatorial bets and 90 congressional bets failed to submit their SECEs.
Amora-Ladra said candidates who fail to file their SECEs in two elections may face charges and may be perpetually disqualified from public office if found guilty.
Comelec commissioner Christian Lim, who chairs the Ad Hoc Campaign Finance Steering Committee, said next year's mid-term polls will give Comelec a chance to strictly implement election laws to prepare for the 2016 national elections.
"The polls in 2013 is experimental, more crucial is the national elections in 2016," he said.
"These are learning steps. For the first time, Comelec is serious in implementing campaign finance laws," he added.
Brillantes also said the monitoring of campaign spending has already started for "prospective candidates."
Brillantes explained that because of the advanced filing of the certificates of candidacy, there are no official candidates yet.
The law provides that candidates only become official when campaign period begins.
"We are now monitoring the spending of the prospective candidates. As of now, wala pang kandidato. Those who filed their certificates of candidacy are not yet official candidates," he said.