House panel okays bill to strengthen party system

October 19, 2018

THE House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms has approved a substitute bill which seeks to strengthen the political party system in the country.

The unnumbered measure approved by the panel chaired by Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna substituted four bills, including House Bill (HB) No. 697, principally authored by former President-turned Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which envisions changing the norm of having political butterflies during and after election period.

The three other substituted bills are HB No. 522 authored by Deputy Speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil “Fred” Castro, HB No. 1695 by Cagayan De Oro City Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, and HB No. 7088 by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.

Arroyo said her HB No. 697 aims to give importance to party ideals and policy agenda rather than political pragmatism and survival.

Her bill proposes that any member of the party wanting to change party affiliation after being elected on the party’s ticket, should first resign from his elective position and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.

Likewise, defecting persons cannot be appointed nor hold any position in any public office until after the expiration of the term within which they were elected.

“Our history tells us that political parties in the Philippines are normally used only as political vehicles to win an election. Hence, most political aspirants change political parties for convenience, rather than conviction. This only shows the lack of ideology commitment to the members of a party because they choose parties based on the rise and fall of the tide of opportunity,” said Speaker Arroyo in her explanatory note of HB No. 697.

She further said “turncoatism” should never be encouraged nor tolerated since it only distorts the concept of word of honor and dignity of a leader.”

The substitute bill aims to institutionalize and strengthen political parties in the country by introducing reforms in campaign financing and providing financial subsidies to political parties to augment their expenditures for campaign.

The bill covers political parties duly registered with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

It mandates political parties to craft a clear policy agenda and program of governance consistent with their party philosophy and ideals. Each party shall formulate a system of nomination and selection of candidates, in which all party members are involved.

Moreover, voluntary contributions to any political party shall be limited to the following maximum amount: 1) up to P1 million from a natural person; 2) up to P10 million from a juridical person shall be allowed to make a volunteer contribution under existing laws; and 3) any contribution in cash or in kind to a political party for campaign purposes, duly reported to the Comelec, shall be exempt from donor’s tax.

The bill also mandates the creation of a State Subsidy Fund (SSF) which shall be used directly and exclusively for party development and campaign expenditures of accredited national political parties, such as 1) party administration, recruitment and civic education; 2) research and policy development; 3) education and training of members; 4) institution building and constituent outreach program; 5) other reasonable logistical and operational expenses that are essential in strengthening the party; 6) operating and travelling expenses; 7) information dissemination, advocacy campaigns, production and distribution of electoral paraphernalia ; and 8) other expenditures under Section 102 of the Omnibus Election Code.