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Comelec to take on campaign overspending allegation vs. Duterte if asked formally

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will take on allegations of campaign overspending against President Rodrigo Duterte if it receives a formal request for investigation of the matter, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez has said.

The election watchdog group Kontra Daya called for an investigation of Duterte's election spending after an ABS-CBN executive told a Senate inquiry that his campaign spent P175 million on ad placements with the network in 2016. 

Duterte after the elections declared in his Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) that his campaign had spent P334 million

“Through news reporting on the matter, the Comelec has been made aware of Kontra Daya’s call for an investigation into alleged overspending by the Duterte campaign in 2016," Jimenez said in a statement.

"To date, however, the Comelec has not received a formal request for such an investigation from Kontra Daya or any other group. Should a formal request be submitted, the Comelec will take all appropriate and necessary steps to resolve the matter,” he added.

The cost of Duterte's ad placements with ABS-CBN came to fore during the Senate hearing on ABS-CBN's legislative franchise.

The non-airing of a Duterte was one of the major discussion points in the hearing since the President has previously threatened to close down ABS-CBN for not airing his political ads and airing anti-Duterte ads instead.

Breach of Comelec rules

Kontra Daya cited Section 9a of Comelec Resolution 10049 which said that a broadcast election propaganda for candidates or registered political parties for a national elective position should not exceed 120 minutes of television advertising per television station, whether appearing on national, regional, or local, free or cable television.

As for radio advertising, the same Comelec Resolution sets the limit at 180 minutes per radio station, whether airing on national, regional, or local radio, whether by purchase or donation.

“Assuming that a 15-second ad spot costs P500,000 and a 30-second ad spot in popular primetime evening programs costs P800,00, it is probable that spending about P175 million for a single network would already go beyond what is allowed by law,” Kontra Daya said.

Sought for comment on Comelec’s position, Kontra Daya maintained that the poll body should do its mandate of probing the Duterte campaign for overspending regardless of any request, given what was revealed in the Senate hearing.

“We shall consider this statement by Comelec. However, the Senate hearings should already provide Comelec with an impetus,” Kontra Daya said in a statement.

“Nothing is stopping Comelec from looking into this issue on its own," it added. —NB, GMA News