MANILA, Philippines - A senior administration lawmaker yesterday urged the Senate to pass the Political Parties Reform Bill that would institutionalize reforms in electoral campaign financing, promote fairness and transparency among candidates, and reduce opportunities for graft and corruption.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, president of the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), was referring to Senate Bill 3214 authored by Senators Edgardo Angara, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Jinggoy Estrada, and Franklin Drilon.

Angara has already sponsored the measure on the floor and the bill, which also mandates state financing and sets limits on donations to political parties, is awaiting approval on second reading.

The House of Representatives in a unanimous vote approved House Bill 6551 in October. Otherwise known as the Political Party Development Act of 2012, HB 6551 was the House’s version of the measure, principally authored by Rodriguez and Reps. Elpidio Barzaga, Juan Edgardo Angara, and Raymond Democrito Mendoza.

“In the past decades up to now, our political party system is really run by patronage politics. The head is usually the one who’s richest or has the most resources and therefore, the one dictating everything – from the candidates to be fielded, to the interests to be protected. There’s no ideology at all,” Rodriguez said.

“What’s happening now is that party members don’t pay dues, there is no real consensus or internal voting on issues because everything’s dictated by one or two people only and worse, politicians switch party loyalties quickly depending on who’s in power,” he said.

Rodriguez said the political party reform bill would also greatly minimize “balimbings,” referring to the fruit with many sides in describing political turncoats.

He said the bill would greatly help Filipinos move towards a more mature and stable democracy.

Rodriguez said the state subsidies, which would be accompanied by clear rules and criteria on how it would be distributed and used, would prevent any one person from “hijacking” a political party using his or her financial clout.

Rodriguez and Angara said mature democracies both in the East and West have long been implementing state subsidies for their political parties.

Rodriguez said the CDP is a party “owned, funded and controlled by its dues-paying members and not by a single patron or groups of individuals, who are out to assume political power.”

Under the bill, political parties are mandated to craft a clear policy agenda and program of governance consistent with their party philosophy and ideals. Each party is also required to formulate a system on nomination and selection of candidates, in which all party members are involved.

The measure mandates that a state subsidy be created to augment the operating funds of the accredited national political parties and shall be used directly and exclusively for party development and campaign expenditures.

The bill provides that the total fund of the state subsidy shall be distributed as follows: five percent shall be used exclusively for monitoring purposes and the conduct of information dissemination campaigns and voters’ education; 30 percent to be proportionately and ratably distributed to accredited political parties represented in the Senate based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections.

Moreover, 65 percent shall be proportionately and ratably distributed to APPs in the House based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections.

Under the measure, voluntary contributions to any political party shall be allowed up to P1 million from a natural person, and up to P10 million from a juridical person.

All expenditures are to be audited by the Commission on Audit (COA) and violations are to be met with stiff penalties, including imprisonment.

The bill provides also that the criteria for eligibility to receive the said fund are based on political representation, organizational strength and mobilization capability, performance and track record of the party.

Another vital provision of the bill is appropriation of the amount of P500 million out of the funds of the National Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and the appropriation of P350 million every year thereafter.


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