MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has deputized the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the Commission on Audit (COA), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to assist poll officials in monitoring candidates' compliance with the country's campaign finance laws, according to a new resolution issued on Wednesday, January 16.
Under Comelec Resolution 9616, the Comelec law department will turn into a "Campaign Finance Unit," tasked to implement campaign finance laws and the Fair Elections Act. It is the main body responsible for monitoring expenses of senatorial candidates, political parties, and party-list groups during the campaign period for the May elections. If needed, it can seek the assistance of AMLC, BIR, and COA.
The regional, provincial, municipal, and city directors, supervisors, and officials will perform the same tasks in their respective areas.
"In anticipation of the increased economic activity that usually occur every election, the Anti-Money Laundering Council is hereby deputized to monitor and ensure that proceeds from unlawful activities... are not used to commit money laundering... in the guise of campaign contributions and expenditures during the campaign period," reads Section 20 of Resolution 9616.
AMLC may be able to help curb vote-buying, said Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.
Visiting campaign headquarters
Comelec also has "visitorial power" to inspect records of contributions and expenditures of candidates. This is where BIR and COA may be able to help. With a letter of authority coming from Comelec, BIR and COA officials may visit campaign headquarters to inspect their records.
The Campaign Finance Unit may also monitor political rallies and election meetings to make sure no election offenses are committed. They may use photographs and videos to supplement affidavits and other documentary evidence to prove offenses.
It is also the task of the unit to ask candidates to submit accurate campaign finance disclosure statements after the campaign period. The deadline for this document is June 13, 2013, or a month after the elections.
To make sure the submissions are accurate, the unit will have to, among others, conduct price surveys to determine prevailing rates for campaign tools and services.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr vowed to be stricter this coming elections. A separate resolution - Comelec Resolution 9515 - details new rules governing the use of campaign tools and services.
Among the new rules are the following:
1) The 120-minute limit to television advertising applies to all networks;
2) The 180-minute limit to radio advertising applies to all stations;
3) Online election propaganda will also be monitored and limited;
4) Tandem ads will be deducted from both candidates' airtime;
5) Candidates cannot hang campaign paraphernalia on trees;
6) Candidates must also remove campaign paraphernalia after the campaign period;
The Campaign Finance Unit will have access to advertising contracts and broadcast orders.