By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms expressed optimism yesterday that the bill against political butterflies will be passed in the 17th Congress.
Citizens Battle against Corruption (CIBAC) partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna said he was hopeful that the bill will finally the see the light this Congress.
“I hope that the bill will be passed this 17th Congress,” he said.
“The fate of the bill depends on the House members,” Tugna said.
The House of Representatives adjourned last week without passing the bill which seeks to strengthen the political party system in the country.
Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means passed the bill, nodding to its tax provision which exempts from donor’s tax the voluntary contributions to any political party.
The House panel, chaired by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing passed the tax provision of the unnumbered bill which substituted House Bills 522, 697, 1695 and 7088, authored by Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr., and MAGDALO partylist Rep. Gary Alejano.
The Suansing panel specifically approved Section 11 of the substitute bill that provides that the voluntary contributions to any political party shall be tax-exempt.
These include the voluntary contributions amounting up to P1 million from a natural person; up to P10 million from a juridical person; and any contribution in cash or in kind to a political party for campaign purposes, duly reported to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“This bill is very relevant and much-needed. If a natural or juridical entity will contribute, the issue on hand is whether or not these Good Samaritans will be taxed.
The bill proposed that they will be tax-exempt. Under taxation laws, as general rules, everything is taxable unless the law specifically states that it is not. We are here to seek your guidance and approval,” Tugna said before the approval of the bill.
It was Deputy Speaker and Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero who moved for the approval of the substitute bill.
Tugna explained that the bill covers all political parties duly registered with the Comelec, Under the bill, if the politicians transfer to another political party one year after their election and one year before the scheduled next poll, their elective office will be forfeited, he said.
He said the bill seeks to give “stability” in the political landscape and ensure the continuity of government policies and programs.
Speaker Arroyo, one of the principal authors of the bill said the measure aims to change the norm of having political butterflies during and after election period.
The bill seeks to give importance to party ideals and policy agenda rather than political pragmatism and survival, she said.
Under the bill, any member of the party wanting to change party affiliation after being elected on the party’s ticket, should first resign from his elective position and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.
Likewise, defecting persons cannot be appointed nor hold any position in any public office until after the expiration of the term within which they were elected.
“Our history tells us that political parties in the Philippines are normally used only as political vehicles to win an election. Hence, most political aspirants change political parties for convenience, rather than conviction. This only shows the lack of ideology commitment to the members of a party because they choose parties based on the rise and fall of the tide of opportunity,” Arroyo said.
“Turncoatism should never be encouraged nor tolerated since it only distorts the concept of word of honor and dignity of a leader,” she said.
The substitute bill aims to institutionalize and strengthen political parties in the country by introducing reforms in campaign financing and providing financial subsidies to political parties to augment their expenditures for campaign.
It mandates political parties to craft a clear policy agenda and program of governance consistent with their party philosophy and ideals. Each party shall formulate a system of nomination and selection of candidates, in which all party members are involved.
The bill also mandates the creation of a State Subsidy Fund (SSF) which shall be used directly and exclusively for party development and campaign expenditures of accredited national political parties, such as party administration, recruitment and civic education; research and policy development; education and training of members; institution building and constituent outreach program; other reasonable logistical and operational expenses that are essential in strengthening the party; operating and travelling expenses; information dissemination, advocacy campaigns, production and distribution of electoral paraphernalia ; and other expenditures under Section 102 of the Omnibus Election Code.
Under the bill, the SSF shall be distributed as follows: five percent shall be used exclusively for monitoring purposes and the conduct of information dissemination campaigns and voter’s education; 30 percent shall be proportionately and ratably distributed to accredited political parties represented in the Senate based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections; and 65 percent shall be proportionately and ratably distributed to accredited political parties in the House of Representatives based on the number of seats obtained in the most recent general elections.
The measure tasks the Comelec to serve as the independent implementing arm of the proposed Act. It also calls for the creation of a Political Party and Campaign Finance Department within the Comelec.