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Why Soce is important

By: Artemio V. Panganiban - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 13,2022 - 08:00 AM

Why do our laws require all candidates, whether they won or lost, to file with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) their respective “statement[s] of contributions and expenses” (Soce) within 30 days from Election Day (that is, on or before June 8)?

THE OBVIOUS ANSWER IMHO: For good governance, to find out (1) whether their expenses were within the limits prescribed by law, (2) what specifically the expenses were for, (3) who their donors were and their motives for their large contributions, and (4) whether they and their donors could truly afford the alleged donations and expenses.

Under Section 13 of Republic Act No. 7166, the election expenditures of candidates for president and vice president are limited to an “aggregate” sum of P10 per registered voter; for senators and party-list reps, P3; and for “candidates without a political party and without support from any political party,” P5. Given the 67.5 million registered voters during the 2022 elections, the spending limit of presidential and vice presidential bets is around P675 million.

RA 7166 was passed in 1991. Three decades later, circa the 2022 elections, the limits had remained the same even if campaign expenses may have ballooned 10 times. And yet, candidates and political parties reported expenses that were much less than this limit—to show faithful (even if sometimes incredible) compliance with the archaic law.

NOTABLY, THE LIMITS ARE NOT JUST ON THE “AGGREGATE” EXPENSES but also on the specific expenditure items. Thus, under Section 102 of the Omnibus Election Code or OEC (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, as amended), candidates and political parties may spend only for “travelling expenses … compensation of campaigners … telegraph and telephone tolls … stationery, printing and [their] distribution … employment of watchers … rent, maintenance … of campaign headquarters … political meetings and rallies … newspaper, radio, television and other public advertisements … employment of counsel … copying and classifying lists of voters … [and] printing sample ballots…”

Because of these limits, many candidates and political parties report only their expenses for ads in mainstream media (TV, radio, newspapers), which could easily be tracked. They simply ignore expenses that could not be easily tracked like cash given to local candidates and to their grassroots leaders, or for political rallies and contributions in kind.

Significantly also, the law requires the filing of Soce by the donors and the suppliers of campaign expenses referred to in Section 102 of the OEC. Why? Because the law wants the exact amounts of their contribution or donation (including those given in kind) with the aim of double-checking the Soce of the candidates and the political parties, even if many times, the large donors of the winners use their huge donations as badges to access government largesse.

THE CORPORATION CODE, UNKNOWN TO MANY, BARS ALL CORPORATIONS from giving “donations in aid of any political party or candidate or for purposes of partisan political activity.”

Further, under Section 95 of the OEC, “[n]o contribution for purposes of partisan political activity shall be made directly or indirectly by … (a) Public or private financial institutions … (b) [Natural and juridical persons] operating a public utility or … any natural resource … (c) who … supply the government … with goods or services or to perform construction or other works … (d) who have been granted franchises, incentives, exemptions, allocations or similar privileges or concessions … (e) who … have been granted loans or other accommodations in excess of P100,000 … (f) Educational institutions which have received grants of public funds … (g) Officials or employees in the Civil Service or members of the Armed Forces …; and (h) Foreigners…”

To stress, donors, under Section 99 of the same code, are also required, “[to] file with the [Comelec] a report under oath stating the amount of each contribution, the name of the candidate, agent of the candidate or political party receiving the contribution, and the date of the contribution.” So, too, the suppliers and recipients of election campaign expenditures are also required to file a similar Soce.

While laudable, all these transparency and accountability requirements from (1) candidates, (2) political parties, (3) donors, and (4) suppliers have sadly become useless mountains of paperwork that have not reined in political expenses and corruption of voters.

Clearly, the antiquated laws need to be revised to keep up with the Internet Age, and to move backward the 90-day (for national bets) and 45-day (for local bets) starting points in reporting election expenses. Well-known is the fact that candidates for the top posts start their campaigns and spend enormous amounts as early as a year or two ahead of Election Day. Also, like in the United States, the contributions should be limited to say P10,000 per donor to avoid huge political debts.

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TAGS: Cebu Daily News, cebu news, Comelec, Commission on Elections, soce

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