House approves proposed Political Party Development Act of 2012

THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a proposed measure that is designed to level the playing field among all candidates and political parties during elections.

House Bill 6551, also known as Political Party Development Act of 2012, seeks to strengthen the country’s political party system.

“We have to veer away from politics of patronage and money.  We have to grow as a nation and center our politics on issues and political platforms,” the authors said.

Authors include Reps. Juan Edgardo Angara (Lone District, Aurora), Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (Party-list, Abante Mindanao), Raymond Democrito Mendoza (Party-list, TUCP) and Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol).

“We have to institutionalize and strengthen our political parties by introducing reforms in campaign financing through effective and transparent mechanism to level the playing field and eliminate opportunities for corruption,” the authors said.

The proposed Political Party Development Act mandates that a State subsidy be created to augment the operating funds of the Accredited National Political Parties (APPs) and shall be used directly and exclusively for party development and campaign expenditures.

Covered expenditures include party administration, recruitment and civic education, research and policy development, education and training of members, institution-building and constituent outreach programs, and other reasonable logistical and operational expenses that are essential in strengthening the party.

Also included are operating and traveling expenses, information dissemination, advocacy campaigns, production and distribution of electoral paraphernalia and other expenditures under Section 102 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The measure provides that the criteria for eligibility to receive the said funds are based on political representation, organizational strength and mobilization capability, performance and track record of the party.

The total amount of State subsidy fund shall be distributed as follows: 5% shall be used exclusively for monitoring purposes and the conduct of information dissemination campaigns and voters’ education; 30% shall be proportionately and ratably distributed to APPs represented in the Senate based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections.

Likewise, 65% shall be proportionately and ratably distributed to APPs in the House of Representatives based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections.

The proposed Act also prescribes that the system for disclosure and monitoring with the Commission on Audit playing a vital role is examining the financial reports of the APPs on their use of State subsidy.  It also provides that officials of every APP shall submit a sworn statement of their assets and liabilities to the COA, which shall be made available to the public at least six (6) months before elections.

The Act shall apply to political parties registered with and certified to as such by the Commission on Elections.  Parties are also mandated to craft clear policy agenda and program of governance consistent with their party philosophy and ideals.  Each party is also mandated to formulate a system on nomination and selection of candidates, in which all party members are involved.

Under the Act, voluntary contributions to any APP shall be up to P1-million if from a natural person, and up to P10-million if from a juridical person.  Any contribution in cash or in kind to a political party for campaign purposes, duly reported to the Commission, shall be exempt from donor’s tax.

The bill further provides that the amount of P500-million is appropriated out of the funds of the National Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and the amount of P350-million shall be appropriated every year thereafter.

The Comelec and the Department of Budget and Management shall promulgate the guidelines to facilitate the release of the funds to every APP, and for the Comelec to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations to effectively implement the provisions of the proposed Act.

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