Start with the money flow
A fiesta atmosphere prevailed as the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2019 elections kicked off yesterday. Candidates heeded the admonition of the Commission on Elections against turning the filing of their COCs into a circus inside the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila. Outside the building, however, many candidates were still accompanied by throngs of supporters and even brass bands wearing shirts displaying the candidates’ names.
Such brass bands, campaign t-shirts, and every streamer and leaflet don’t come free. Each item forms part of the expenditures in seeking an elective post in this country. Certain candidates can rely on their political party for fund raising. But typically, candidates must raise campaign funds on their own from supporters. Such donations can be considerable and are rarely given without a future quid pro quo.
The reward usually comes in the form of a sweetheart deal awarded to the donor by the office of a winning candidate. Or the supporter can get himself or a relative or friend appointed to a position in government, even if the qualifications do not meet the requirements. This system of patronage hinders the development of a merit-based culture in the bureaucracy and Philippine society in general. It is also a prime cause of corruption throughout the government.
For these reasons, the Commission on Elections must do a better job of regulating campaign donations and expenditures. There are civil society groups whose advocacy is promoting clean elections, and which can be tapped for such monitoring.
Most lawmakers cannot be expected to pass legislation that will curtail the flow of contributions to their campaign war chests. But the Comelec can draw up rules to tighten campaign finance regulation. There is always a lot of noise about working for honest elections. The effort should start with campaign finance regulation.