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Your Generosity Could Get You into Trouble

The Barangay and SK elections (BSKE) is scheduled on October 30, 2023.  Unless further postponed, it would seem like this event will likely take place. It naturally follows, that the would-be candidates are already making plans should they be taking part in this local electoral exercise.  In previous events, it is worth mentioning that the incumbent officials, being custodians of public funds, must take extra caution when it comes to disbursing public funds during the election period.

Instances such as, the giving out of cash assistance to people in need during the pandemic, helping one way or another – the homeless, unemployed workers, the impoverished, or other groups of persons similarly situated during the 45- day period prior to the elections with the use of public funds, could be held liable for violating Section 261 (v) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines on prohibition against release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds. Unless they are able to secure a Certificate of Exception from the Commission on Elections (Commission) within the prescribed period of time, after due notice and hearing, then said acts will be considered aboveboard.

The Commission, in at least two cases, made pronouncements that candidates involved in the acts mentioned above, are disqualified under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.  These however, are still the subject of review in the appellate court and recently, one case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The candidates’ gestures of benevolence and compassion to the needy, no matter how noble they are, would always be subject to restrictions by our rules.  One is already mentioned above, the other is contained in Republic Act 7166 (An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms, Authorizing Appropriations Therefor, and for other Purposes), Section 13 thereof enumerates the authorized expenses of candidates during the campaign period.  Also in the same law, Section 14 prescribes the filing of the candidate’s Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).  After hearing, candidates who are liable, even after taking their oath and assuming their functions, could still be disqualified (DQ).

The distribution of cash assistance has become a common local government activity especially during extraordinary times.  There are limitations and the rules have become stricter during the election period. Acts of government officials as candidates are not spared from the prying eyes of the public.

 Be aware of the rules, lest your generosity could get you into trouble.

***Comment/s made in this article are made by me in my personal capacity as a lawyer and not as an employee of the Comelec. 

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