Examining 2016 Election Candidates’ SOCEs and SALNs

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Photo from PCIJ website.

 

CHEERS TO the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) for another close examination of critical documents. A series of reports looked into the statements of contributions and expenditures (SOCEs) and the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) primarily of President Rodrigo Duterte and, also, of other candidates for president, vice president and senator in the 2016 elections. The SOCE allows the public to identify supporters and donors for a politician’s bid for office, directing the public gaze to check out if and how the politician pays it back. The SALN which has been the subject of PCIJ investigation in the past, particularly the SALNs of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, enables the people to keep track of wealth gained during the term of the public officials, as a way of detecting ill-gotten wealth. The SOCE and the SALN obviously carry information that the public must know.

PCIJ has so far published five reports from December 5 to 8: (1) exploring the SOCEs of presidential bets; (2) examining Duterte’s SOCEs; (3) comparing the SOCEs and SALNs of those who ran for national positions; (4) looking into excess donations in the candidates’ campaign funds; and, (5) probing into Binay’s anonymous campaign donors.

PCIJ’s P334M from only 13 donors funded Duterte presidency” revealed that Duterte had 31 donors, each of whom gave at least a million pesos in cash or its worth in kind. Thirteen of them donated more than five million pesos, including Antonio Floirinido Jr., who gave 75 million, and Duterte’s running mate Alan Peter Cayetano, who gave more than 71 million. In another PCIJ report, the same Cayetano spent only PHP 199,872.42 for his own campaign (“SALNs and SOCEs of some bets don’t add up,” December 6).

In a December 7 report in GMA News Online, Cayetano said that the PCIJ story was misleading and malicious and it was unfair to link his earnings as senator to his donation to Duterte’s campaign.

In its report, PCIJ interviewed Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) executive Rona Ann V. Caritos who pointed out that while Cayetano did not violate any law for donating to campaigns, he holds a government position with salaries not over half a million per month.

Still on Duterte campaign donors, PCIJ pointed to section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code that prohibits “natural and juridical persons” who have business interest in utilities, mining and the like from making an election contribution.  This is to prevent undue pressure of vested interests on policies affecting these basic public services. PCIJ identified several persons named in Duterte’s SOCE who were involved in mining, business and public utility.

The center also noted that at least half a dozen of Duterte’s campaign donors including their families and relatives were appointed to government posts. To name a few whose contributions varied greatly in amount: Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea (donated PHP 1.5 million to Duterte), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueño (donated PHP 21,600 in kind) and DILG Undersecretary Jesus Hinlo Jr. (donated a tarpaulin worth PHP 576).

While it is not legally and morally wrong to appoint someone who helped fund a campaign in government office, the media should make sure those appointed have the qualifications for the post.

In another story, “13 bets, 4 parties raise P69-M excess donations” published December 7, PCIJ checked excess donations.  What do candidates do with the excess funds? In the case of 2016 senatorial candidate Isko Moreno, whose excess campaign funds reached PHP 50.8 million, he declared the fund as income and paid corresponding taxes.

The Philippine election law does not prohibit electoral candidates to keep excess donations for their personal use.  Thus, poll candidates can pocket huge amounts of money from campaign funds after the elections. This should be reviewed as candidates have been known to run for office, raise funds and keep the money.

SOCEs and SALNs have proven useful in cases such as E.R. Ejercito’s suspension as Laguna governor in 2014 after his SOCE showed campaign overspending. The failure of former Chief Justice Renato Corona to disclose some of his assets in his SALN was cited as evidence against him during the impeachment trial in 2012.

The series may be faulted for the overload of information. The first report on Duterte’s SOCE may be a little lengthy for a web post. Some break down of the findings and more creative use of data visualization could make the material more accessible to the public.