Senators expressed their disapproval over a proposed bill that will increase the limit of campaign funds during elections, saying it will only benefit the rich and disqualify the poor candidates. 

The suggestion was introduced during the Senate’s plenary session on Tuesday (May 18) – which came in the form of Senate Bill No. 810, titled “An Act Increasing the Authorized Expenses of Candidates and Political Parties.” 

Under the new bill, the allowable campaign spending of presidential and vice-presidential candidates will be increased to P50 per voter – four times higher than the current P10. 

Meanwhile, independent candidates and political parties will be able to spend up to P30 per voter. 

Senator Imee Marcos is sponsoring the measure as Chairperson of the Senate Electoral Reforms Committee.

According to her, the bill will “reduce the number of protests involving overspending, under-reporting, and even nuisance candidates.”

However, several senators raised concern over the proposed measure.

“I’m worried about the national campaign. Maybe we might have authorized a campaign amount that is unrealistic or too favorable for the moneyed candidates,” Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said during the hearing.

Pimentel pointed out that it will give the impression that only wealthy candidates can run for national office. 

“My interpretation, you have an upper limit on your expenditure and you can choose to place this in ads, you can choose not to place this in ads. So no matter the per minute, per second cost, it’s the candidate’s decision to spend his campaign fund,” he said.

“So, if the [total allowable expenditure is] P3 billion, will give us the impression that only moneyed candidates can gun for national offices,” Pimentel stressed.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also expressed misgivings about the new bill, saying it “practically disqualifies the poor candidates.”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also had some choice words for the proposal. 

“I have very serious reservations to impose a minimum spending whatever it is — P500 or P500,000– to impose that minimum, in effect you are putting a price tag on my desire to seek public office. I think it can be questioned,” Drilon said.

For her part, Marcos urged her colleagues to discuss the issue further, saying there’s no ‘burning need’ for such an increase in the spending limit.

“I agree po. The amendment came from COMELEC and we should discuss it. I don’t see the burning need to have such an amendment. As you said it is quite off putting po,” she explained.

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Image credit: Artur Widak via Getty Images