Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to let the Commission on Elections (Comelec) conduct an investigation into allegations that he breached the lawful cap on campaign spending during the 2016 presidential elections.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after election watchdog Kontra Daya called on the Comelec to investigate Duterte’s campaign spending upon learning that his camp spent roughly PHP175 million for advertisements aired over broadcast giant ABS-CBN alone.
“The President is always open [to a probe]. Every time he is being accused…e di magdemanda kayo kung totoo ang sinasabi niyo (you should file cases if your allegations are true),” Panelo said in a media interview in Malacañang.
Panelo dismissed the allegations of overspending as “speculations”, denying that Duterte violated any law.
“Number one nga siyang (He is the first person who is) against violators so how can he violate? He has not violated any law. He enforces the law,” he said.
Despite Duterte repeatedly saying that he had no campaign machinery, Panelo said the former Davao City mayor had many friends and supporters who contributed to his 2016 presidential bid.
“When you’re running for any position there are friends and supporters who contribute, who pay for your advertisements if they like you,” he said.
In a statement, Kontra Daya cited information that emerged during a February 24 Senate hearing that the Duterte camp spent around PHP175 million for ABS-CBN alone.
However, based on the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) submitted to Comelec, the Duterte camp reportedly declared about PHP110 million in total campaign ad spending.
“Assuming that a 15-second ad spot costs PHP500,000 and a 30-second ad spot in popular primetime evening programs costs PHP800,00, it is probable that spending about PHP175 million for a single network would already go beyond what is allowed by law,” Kontra Daya said.
It further cited Section 9a of Comelec Resolution 10049 which states that broadcast election propaganda for candidates or registered political parties for a national elective position shall be “[n]ot more than a total of one hundred 120 minutes of television advertising, on a per originating station basis, whether appearing on national, regional, or local, free or cable television, and 180 minutes of radio advertising, on a per originating station basis, whether airing on national, regional, or local radio, whether by purchase or donation.”
Kontra Daya also expressed shock after Duterte’s camp declared a total presidential election campaign spending of PHP371 million.
“Does this mean that Duterte and his supporters four years ago had so much faith on ABS-CBN that it supposedly decided to pay the latter about 47.2 percent of its total election budget” it said.
The Omnibus Election Code’s Article 12, Section 264 states that any person violating the law “shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.” (PNA)