Angara pushes state subsidy for political parties
DESPITE scarcity of funds, Senator Edgardo Angara pushed state subsidy for political parties in a belief that it will strengthen the country’s political system and help make elections fairer and more equitable.
Angara, Chairman and President of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), noted that government funding for political parties are common features in many countries with mature democracies like Canada, Germany, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“In 2008, the United States government allotted $16.3 million to its political parties, while the United Kingdom grants £2 million annually,” explained the veteran lawmaker. “The underlying principle there is that a country’s politics can be developed and made more equitable if the state supports political organizations with their campaigns and finances.”
He added that by acting as a neutral third-party in this manner, the state provides baseline support to political parties and eases their need to turn to moneyed personalities for funding.
Angara is one of the main proponents of the Political Party Development Act (PPDA) in the Senate, which among other things creates a State Subsidy Fund—amounting to P350 million—that accredited national political parties can use exclusively for campaign expenditures and routine operations like civic education, research and policy development, recruitment, and training for members.
“On one hand, the fund can be used to professionalize and enhance the operations of political parties. On the other, it empowers them to truly represent the interests of their constituents rather than remain beholden to private contributors,” stressed the former UP President.
According to the proposed PPDA (SBN 3214), the subsidy will be proportionately shared among accredited national parties based on three broad criteria: 1) political representation; 2) organizational strength and mobilization capability; and 3) performance and track record of the party.
According to the Senate version of the measure, ten percent of the total fund will be allotted to the COMELEC for monitoring purposes and the conduct of information dissemination and voters’ education activities.
The remaining 90 percent will be distributed based on the number of seats the political party had obtained in the most recent general elections for the Senate, the House of Representatives, and local elective positions including those for governor, mayor and city or provincial legislative councils.
The measure then mandates the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to draft the law’s implementing rules and regulations, including the formula on how the State Subsidy Fund will be proportionately disbursed.
Angara, the longest serving Senator in the post-EDSA Philippines, said, “The bill also puts clear limits to voluntary contributions from natural persons and juridical persons like corporations. Parties will also have to furnish reports on campaign expenditures and activities to the Commission on Audit to further institutionalize transparency and accountability.”
He also noted that according to the PPDA, the share of the political party in the State Subsidy Fund will only be released upon proof that it has raised the equivalent amount of funds from membership dues and voluntary contributions.
“A rule like this puts more pressure on the party to keep their members loyal and active,” added Angara, noting that the PPDA also penalizes so-called political turncoats.
He concluded, “What we want is to redefine politics in the Philippines and address some of the trust issues between government officials and citizens. In a way, this state subsidy is just one of the ‘costs of democracy’ that we have to bear to enact real change.”
The Senate version of the PPDA is still pending on the committee level, while the House version has already been passed on Third Reading.