26 incumbent, former elected officials in Davao Region under investigation for campaign overspending

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Feb) – Twenty-six incumbent and former elected officials in the Davao Region are now under preliminary investigation by the law department of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for campaign overspending in the past two elections, a poll body official said.

Speaking during Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Davao, assistant regional director Marlon Casquejo said the law department has vowed to come out with a decision and file a case in court before the 2016 elections slated on May 9.

Casquejo refused to disclose the names but added there are two incumbent officials in Davao del Norte and one in Davao del Sur, while the 23 are former officials who held different positions such as mayor, vice mayor, and members of the House of Representatives.

Section 100 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that “no candidate shall spend for his election campaign an aggregate amount exceeding one peso and fifty centavos for every voter currently registered in the constituency where he filed his candidacy: Provided, That the expenses herein referred to shall include those incurred or caused to be incurred by the candidate, whether in cash or in kind, including the use, rental or hire of land, water or aircraft, equipment, facilities, apparatus and paraphernalia used in the campaign.”

“Provided, further, That where the land, water or aircraft, equipment, facilities, apparatus and paraphernalia used is owned by the candidate, his contributor or supporter, the Commission is hereby empowered to assess the amount commensurate with the expenses for the use thereof, based on the prevailing rates in the locality and shall be included in the total expenses incurred by the candidate,” it further states.

Casquejo said that the process would take long because it is a major case that would cost those involved one to six years of imprisonment and disqualification to hold public office if proven guilty.

“The problem with overspending, it is documentary. When you submit you document, the documents will speak for itself. It will not be hard to prosecute, because there are documents,” he said.

Sec. 13 of Republic Act 7166 (an act “providing for synchronized national and local elections for electoral reforms, authorizing appropriations”) it states that expenses will be P10 for President and Vice President; and for other candidates P3 for every voter currently registered in the constituency “where he filed his certificate of candidacy” while a candidate without any political party and without support from any political party may be allowed to spend P5 for every such voter.

Some 170,000 voters in the Davao Region have been cleansed from the database of the COMELEC after the Supreme Court junked last December 16 the petition questioning the constitutionality of the poll body’s “No Bio, No Boto” policy for lack of merit.

President Benigno Aquino III signed in 2013 Republic Act 10367 (An act providing for mandatory biometrics voter registration), which prompted the Kabataan Party-List to file a petition before the SC who later issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the measure.

Casquejo said that 87,000, or more than half of the deactivated voters, are from Davao City while the rest came from other provinces.

The region has a total of 2,659,766 voters, Casquejo said, but final list will be out on March 9.

Based on the records of COMELEC 11, Davao City has the most voters at 873,670, followed by Davao del Norte with 525,343, Compostela Valley with 408,539, Davao del Sur with 373,692, Davao Oriental with 319,971, and Davao Occidental with 158,551.