MANILA, Philippines - Former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office board member Manuel "Manoling" Morato is facing electioneering charges for endorsing administration candidates in a government sponsored TV show that he used to host.
Lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan filed 4 counts of electioneering against Morato for endorsing Lakas-Kampi presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro in several episodes of his former TV show "Dial M" before the 2010 elections.
Alentajan said Morato violated the Omnibus Election Code, which states that using government funds, equipment, and other resources for an election campaign constitutes an election offense. If found guilty, Morato could face 6 years jail time and a fine.
"Mali ang ginagawa niya. Dapat managot siya," he said during the filing of the case at the Commission on Elections office in Intramuros, Manila.
An episode of the "Dial M" show was recently shown during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry on PCSO fund anomalies.
In the episode, Morato called on viewers to vote for Teodoro and his running mate, Edu Manzano. He also called on his viewers not to vote for opposition senatorial bets Francis "Chiz" Escudero and Teofisto Guingona III.
"Ang lamya pa magsalita. Pa-cute na naman," Morato was shown in the video as saying about Escudero.
"Si Chiz Escudero, nagtatapon like a drug addict ng mga papeles sa Kongreso," he added, referring to Escudero's days as a congressman when he was among those who pursued an impeachment complaint against former President Gloria Arroyo.
"Nagsalita na naman 'yang si TG something... Guingona. Kasinungalingan ng taong 'yon talaga," Morato also said.
"Masyado silang conceited. You should not sit them in the Senate."
Sen. Franklin Drilon criticized Morato for using his TV show to endorse administration candidates and to put down opposition bets.
He said Morato even signed a board resolution releasing P5 million to replay "Dial M" episodes from NBN-4 to IBC-13.
In sum, Drilon said, more than P27 million from PCSO funds was spent to produce the program from 2005 to 2010.
"If you do not call that campaigning, I do not know what to call that," the senator told Morato. "You campaigned for the candidates of the administration. This is the kind of abuse of the funds of the charity sweepstakes that we now see."
Morato admitted that it was wrong for him to sign the board resolution for replaying "Dial M," but did not directly comment on the issue of electioneering. He also apologized to Guingona and explained that "Dial M" was a comedy program.
The senator accepted, saying the issue was nothing personal.