#AnimatED: Private planes and the murky world of campaign finance

One question stands out in the hubbub of the election campaign: Who’s paying for the private planes the presidential candidates use?

It is important because this strikes at the heart of the murky world of campaign finance, peopled by rich donors, go-betweens, and the candidates themselves. This question is a catch-all for we can strike out the phrase “private planes” and substitute this with “TV ads” or “mobilization expenses” and a host of other fees.

Here’s how the 4 candidates replied to the question: 

Campaign finance in the Philippines has been poorly regulated by the Comelec.

Candidates typically misreport or under-report expenses because of the unrealistic cap on expenses: P10 per voter for presidential and vice-presidential elections or about a total of about P840 million for the 2016 elections. 

Moreover, expenses before the start of the campaign period – we see a lot of political ads on TV – are not considered election expenses.

Generally, it is hard for Comelec, the media and citizens groups to get to the bottom of things. Transparency is not the natural order of things.

Campaign finance operates mainly in a cash economy, where money, packed in bags or small crates, is usually handed in person in select private places. Depositing them in bank accounts would catch the unwanted attention of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Big businessmen do not usually want their names disclosed. These billionaires regard their donations as investments, expecting returns should their candidates win.

This makes elite funding of presidential candidates a disturbing reality. A study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 2010 showed that only 308 donors funded the campaign for the presidency – out of a total of 50 million registered voters.

Reforms to thwart money politics have been aired by various advocates – from enforcement of laws to transparency in disclosures to public financing of campaigns. We badly need these now. – Rappler.com