Rep. Fortuno bats for increase in campaign expenditure limits

Are the present limits set by law on campaign expenditures still realistic in the light of the prevailing economic environment which had eroded the purchasing power of the Peso, a lawmaker asked.

"This issue came to fore in a recent controversy generated by the disqualification of Governor E.R. Ejercito of the province of Laguna, who was ousted by the Commission on Elections for election overspending," Hon. Salvio B. Fortuno (5th District, Camarines Sur) said.

Rep. Fortuno is author of HB 5241 entitled "An Act increasing the authorized expenses of candidates and political parties, amending for the purpose Section 13 of Republic Act No. 7166, entitled, 'An Act providing for synchronized national and local elections and for electoral reforms, authorizing appropriations therefor, and for other purposes.'"

"Whatever the circumstances are, a law is a law. As the legal maxim states, dura lex sed lex - Hard is the law but it is the law," Fortuno pointed out following the Ejercito case.

The author recalled that the Supreme Court upheld the Comelec decision disqualifying the former Laguna Governor on the basis of the existing law - R.A. 7166 provides that a candidate is authorized to spend only three pesos (P3.00) for every voter currently registered in the constituency where he filed his certificate of candidacy.

"It is worth noting that the purchasing power of the Philippine peso has continuously diminished from the time R.A. 7166 took effect in 1991 up to the present due to numerous economic factors," Fortuno opined.

Fortuno could not help but quote Dr. Romulo Emmanuel Miral, Jr., Acting Director of the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives who explained that "the value of one (1) Philippine peso in 1991 was equivalent to P3.41 in 2013 or our one (1) Philippine pesos in 2013 was equivalent to P0.29 in 1991 based on Consumer Price Index."

"On the basis of the foregoing computation, the authorized campaign expenditure for the position of President and Vice-President should be from P10.00 to P34.10, for other candidates from P3.00 to P10.23 and for political parties from P5.00 to P17.05," Fortuno pointed out.

"Considering the time and economic factors, there is need to increase this actual computation to meet the demands of the time when this proposed legislative measure is enacted into law," he added.

Therefore, Fortuno insisted, the adjustment should be as follows: for President and Vice-President, from P10.00 to P40.00; for other candidates from P3.00 to P15.00; and for political parties from P5.00 to P20.00.

"The paramount objective of this proposed statute is to make the authorized campaign expenditures for all the candidates and political parties more realistic so that no candidate would ever be penalized on the basis of an antiquated law," Fortuno concluded.

The measure has been referred to the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Rep. Fredenil H. Castro.--House of Representatives Public Relations and Information Bureau