Campaign finance in May 2016

Pasay City bets for mayor deflate,
omit key election expense items

ONE OF them was determined to keep his post while the other two wanted to wrest from him the title of Mayor of Pasay City, one of the smallest cities in Metro Manila but which is nevertheless classified as first-class in terms of income.

Yet Jose Antonio F. Roxas, Jorge C. del Rosario, and Antonino G. Calixto proved rather frugal during the campaign leading to the 2016 elections, with one spending only an average of P520 a week for travelling expenses and another apparently having no need to spend to go around the city at all. Perhaps this was partly because all three had no donors and dipped into their own pockets for their respective campaigns.

This is based on the Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) Roxas, del Rosario, and Calixto filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). As a result of their self-reported thriftiness, all three were able to keep their total expenses below the legal limit, which in their case was P761,472.00 each (P3 multiplied by the number of registered voters in Pasay, which was 253,824). A scrutiny of their respective SOCEs, however, suggests that possible items that may have been overlooked or excluded in their accounting of their expenses.

Pasay has a population of 417,000 and a land area of 1,397 hectares. At the time of the 2016 elections, Calixto was already on his second term as its mayor. In his quest for a third term, Calixto said he spent a total of P437,817.25, with expenses for political meetings and rallies taking up 42 percent (P186,000) of that sum. Some 34 percent or P150,500 of the total went to the hiring of watchers while stationery printing and distribution cost him P85,000. The least costly item in Calixto’s expenditure list was for travel, which he said ran him a bill of P16,317.25.

Calixto — who eventually emerged as winner with 113,218 votes — was the Liberal Party’s bet in Pasay City. According to Calixto’s SOCE, however, he did not receive any contributions from the party – or from anyone else, for that matter. Instead, he said he used his personal funds for his campaign. His expenses were actually only the second highest among the three candidates, which may not be that surprising since in terms of name recognition he already had a leg up over the other two because he was the incumbent. In fact, his name was on streamers and posters announcing a government project all over the city, despite a prohibition on such practice by Circular 2013-004 of the Commission on Audit. (There were two other mayoral candidates for Pasay, but this writer decided to concentrate on those affiliated with political parties.)

To be sure, these streamers and posters would not be expected to be part of his expense list. But there seems to be other curious omissions in Calixto’s SOCE. For example, he included expenses pertaining to the rental of sound systems and Monobloc chairs, which can only be presumed to have been used for rallies and political meetings. Yet there is no expense or donation listed in his SOCE for the rental or use of sites or venues for these.

Calixto’s travel expenses are also composed of fuel receipts. There is no mention of the vehicle or vehicles for which the fuel was used. On March 27, 2016, Calixto even took part in a motorcade with other members of his clan who were also running for public office.

Under Section 94 of the Omnibus Elections Code, the term “contribution” includes the use of facilities voluntarily donated by other persons, the money value of which can be assessed based on prevailing rates. Meanwhile, the term “expenditures” includes the use of facilities personally owned by the candidate, the money value of which can be assessed based on prevailing rates in the area.

Rival del Rosario of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) made similar omissions in his SOCE. Like Calixto, del Rosario also had fuel costs essentially making up his travel expenses, albeit far lower than that of the incumbent: P3,123.43 for the entire six-week campaign period. Del Rosario was silent about the vehicles he used as well.

And again like Calixto, del Rosario rented sound systems, but did not mention any venue where these would have been used. In all, del Rosario said he spent a total of P39,457.43, the lowest among the three candidates.

The top spender among them was Roxas, the candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance or UNA. At P740,000, his campaign-expense total was nearest the spending cap. Interestingly, his expenses did not include anything for travel, which may mean he and his team managed to campaign either from their headquarters or from their own homes. It may also mean they campaigned on foot – which may well be a feat, considering Pasay City, while relatively small, is still the size of about 33 SM Malls of Asia.
Roxas spent P187,100 for printing and distribution of campaign materials, and another P12,900 for political meetings and rallies (although like Calixto and del Rosario, he did not indicate any expense or donation for rally and meeting sites). But the bulk of his expenses went to “watchers”: a whopping P540,000.

Based on his SOCE, Roxas paid 30 watchers P400 a day each, from March 25 to May 9, 2016. Why he would need watchers weeks before election day is puzzling, but Roxas apparently called people who acted as field campaigners as “watchers” as well. According to three field personnel who Roxas identified in his SOCE, they went house to house around Pasay as soon as the campaign period began. They said they used vehicles provided by Roxas to go to predetermined areas to campaign. They also organized weekly caucuses with different barangay captains.

These field personnel also known as “watchers” said that they did not actually perform “watcher duties.” Rather, each of the 30 “watchers” engaged other people as watchers during the elections. According to the field personnel, they hired a pair of watchers for each of Pasay’s clustered precinct, paying each P800. Since Pasay has 430 clustered precincts, Roxas may have paid a total of P688,000 for these actual watchers – but no such amount appears in his SOCE.

This writer tried to interview all three candidates but did not succeed. Two visits to the residence of Roxas were both unfruitful. A letter of request addressed to Mayor Calixto was referred to a public information officer, who in turn said that the “person in charge” had yet to show up for work. A visit to the declared residence of del Rosario, meanwhile, turned out to be confusing, since a forwarding company and not a private home was at the address, No. 30 San Luis St. The security guard at the Heeny Forwarders Inc. also said he did not know del Rosario. — PCIJ, August 2017
* Ryan Jay Roset is currently a consultant for the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE). Prior to working for LENTE, he was a public servant for six and a half years.