MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 4) - Akbayan party-list group received P112 million in campaign contributions for the 2010 national elections. Of this amount, P14 million came from three of President Benigno Aquino III’s sisters.
Based on the statement of election contributions and expenditures filed by Akbayan, it received a total of P112,183,000.00 from February 9 to May 8, 2010.
Political party organizations contributed to less than 5% of the total amount at P5,250,000. The P106,933,000 came from individual persons.
Kristina Bernadette Aquino-Yap was listed as the party's biggest contributor, giving P10 million for the campaign.
Maria Elena "Ballsy" Aquino Cruz and Victoria Aquino-Dee each gave P2 million.
Their family friend Margarita Juico, now chairwoman of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, gave P1 million.
National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Jose Eliseo Rocamora contributed P1 million. Current Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello contributed some P1.4 million.
Based on their expenditures, Akbayan spent P69,440,770 on advertisements in ABS-CBN, GMA Network, TV-5 and TAPE, Inc.
Their total expenditure for the 2010 elections is at P112,174,008.70.
By comparison, Akbayan's campaign contributions are way higher than rival Bayan Muna's P1.26 million, Anakpawis’ P750,000, Gabriela's P1.7 million and Kabataan's P12.1 million.
Contributions received by major political parties are as follows: Liberal Party (P158 million), and Lakas Kampi CMD (P130.6 million).
Akbayan has a bigger campaign contribution fund than the Nacionalista Party with P80 million.
Akbayan's party list accreditation as a representative of various marginalized sectors is now under review by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
It is facing an opposition from Anakbayan and a formal disqualification case from Kontra-Daya on the ground that it no longer represents a marginalized sector.
Akbayan’s critics have cited the party’s links to the Aquino administration. Several of Akbayan’s leaders are now in government including Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas, Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Joel Rocamora and Commission on Human Rights chief Loretta Rosales.
Risa Hontiveros, Akbayan’s former congressional representative, is now a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party endorsed by President Aquino.
In a statement, Akbayan defended its campaign expenditures in 2010, saying that it submitted its report 2 years ago to the Comelec.
“We lament the fact that these reports are being used to raise doubts on the sources of our funding, and our credibility as a legitimate party-list organization,” the group said.
It added: “All our expenses are duly accounted for, and our total expenditures match the total contributions that we received. In short, we earned not even a single centavo from these contributions. These contributions simply allowed us to run a more effective national campaign.”
The party admitted that its campaign in 2010 elections was funded mainly by contributions from individuals who believed in Akbayan’s reform platform and partnership with then Senator and Liberal Party presidential bet Noynoy Aquino.
It also accused some parties of using illegal sources of funds such as "'revolutionary taxes" from logging and mining companies.
“To be exact, 95% of our funds are donations or contributions from other persons. We ensured that the contributions did not come from illegal, unscrupulous, or tainted sources. Unlike our accusers from the extreme left, contributions to Akbayan’s electoral campaign did not come from illegal ‘taxes’ forcible extracted from logging and mining companies under pain of their installations and equipment being burned and their personnel harmed,” it said.
Akbayan said over 90% of its campaign expenditures went to radio and TV ads.
In a separate interview, Hontiveros confirmed the party spent P110.7 million for “joint Noynoy-Akbayan TV ads.”
“Akbayan received the contributions solely for those ads, which were meant for PNoy’s platform which Akbayan supports,” she said.
She also said the balance of P1.3 million contributed for Akbayan’s campaign expenses alone indicates that they indeed represent marginalized sectors.
Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo, who wrote the letter opposition against Akbayan in early October, said Akbayan’s P112 million war chest “is obviously a scandalously huge amount for a party-list campaign fund.”
“If true, this proves further the need for Comelec to investigate Akbayan and heed calls for its disqualification. If they could collect an amount this huge when they were still out of power, how much more now that they are in government? There is clearly an unfair advantage over other groups who are truly marginalized and underrepresented, not to mention that their nominees are appointed officials,” he said in a statement.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the huge campaign contributions from the Aquino family to Akbayan only shows that “Akbayan is beholden to the Aquinos.”
“The links between Aquino and Akbayan, even from the time of 2010 elections show that Akbayan is really Aquino's favored partylist. And now that Aquino is president, questions continue to arise on how Akbayan will be using their position in the Aquino government to gain unfair advantage over the truly marginalized and underrepresented groups,’ he said.
Reyes said it is possible that part of the campaign contributions from the President’s sisters went to Akbayan’s TV ads, “which were actually TV ads of Aquino, but Aquino needed to circumvent the law at palabasin na charged to Akbayan’s time.”
Palace defends contributions
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, meanwhile, defended Aquino’s sisters for contributing to the campaign of Akbayan.
"The sisters are, and continue up to this day as, private citizens. They have a right to contribute to a group they feel which would also support the President's program of anti-corruption and poverty alleviation,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said campaign finance is “worth looking into” and that he will suggest that it be factored in.
He admitted that campaign finances are not a factor for the delisting of a party.
Sarmiento believes that the poll body should be very strict on the monitoring of campaign finances since the law requires that it be submitted within 30 days after the elections.