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SEC asserts firms must not engage in partisan politics

Companies and corporations are not allowed to make any contribution or donation to any candidate or political party vying for an elected post in the government, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said.

"There are established procedures based on a Comelec-SEC MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) signed on October 19, 2015," SEC Spokesperson Armand Pan said in a text message to GMA News Online.

This comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) which found that advertisements against presidential candidate Vice President Jejomar Binay and for senatorial candidate Francis Tolentino were funded by campaign contributions from corporations.

According to the report, the AB Ison Pilot Trading & Construction Corp., was listed in the Nielsen Media monitoring reports as the "advertiser" of a total of P8,835,162 worth of pre-campaign political ads that aired on national media in January 2016.

There were 21 ad spots that criticized Binay, the presidential candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance or UNA, for failing to explain his numerous bank accounts and the overpriced contracts that the City of Makati had awarded during his stint as mayor, according to the PCIJ.

A second firm, Patriot Freedom Air Inc., paid for three advertising contracts with ABS-CBN network in February 2016 for the benefit of former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Tolentino.

"The three ad contracts that ABS-CBN submitted to the Commission on Elections listed Patriot Freedom Air as payor or 'advertiser' of the ads worth a total of P12,567,772," the report read.

Under the Comelec-SEC agreement, the election watchdog should furnish the corporate regulator the names of corporations who engaged in partisan politics by making political donations or contributions.

The information will be sourced from the campaign finance submissions of candidates, as well as the advertising contracts furnished to the Comelec by media organizations.

This will then be submitted to the SEC within 30 days after receiving the disclosure reports and statements. The timeframe starts from the 2016 national and local elections on May 9.

"This list shall be furnished to the SEC once every quarter of the year," Pan said.

Pressed for further details, the SEC official said the focal resource persons on the issue were not readily available for comment.

The Comelec Campaign Finance Unit and the SEC Company Registration and Monitoring Department are implementing the agreement

Pan noted that corporations to be found guilty of violating the rules face administrative sanctions and fines from P1,000 to P10,000 under Section 144 of The Corporation Code of the Philippines. – VDS, GMA News