Press Release
January 29, 2009

Gordon wants election code amended

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon wants to amend the 23-year-old Omnibus Election Code that would bar public officials from using their office and government resources for personal and political aggrandizement.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, is set to introduce an amendatory measure to the 1985 Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines in an attempt to prevent a repetition of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

"It is a common practice during an election period for national and local elective officials to receive money from their supporters for their campaign expenses. This is legitimate or lawful under our present law," he said.

"But when public fund is used to finance the campaign of an elective official seeking re-election, it is a different matter altogether because it would now violate the law on graft and corruption, and a host of other laws. Thus, such practice should be discontinued," he added.

Gordon's bill seeks to amend Section 261 (v) of Omnibus Election Code to bolster the prohibition against releases and disbursements of government funds that could be used as campaign funds since the law as it is now is apparently insufficient to prevent the abuses by politicians to use public funds for their election purposes.

Based on the joint report of the Senate agriculture and blue ribbon committees during the 13th Congress, Gordon explained the fertilizer fund of the Department of Agriculture (DA) was purportedly used in the 2004 national and local elections.

"It is indeed very unfortunate to learn that our farmers who were supposed to produce rice cannot even bring food to their table because the allocated fund for agriculture was used for elections," Gordon added.

In 2004, some P728-million DA funds allocated for farm inputs-farm implements project was purportedly disbursed for the purchase of fertilizer for distribution to farmers through local government units (LGUs).

However, Senate investigation revealed that the project was anomalous since a large chunk of the fund ended up in some individuals' pockets and only a small part of the fund was used for the actual purchase of fertilizer.

The investigation also showed that though bottles of fertilizer were eventually distributed to the farmers, the bottles of fertilizer were, not only over-priced, but were diluted and not even appropriate for rice and other crops but only for ornamental plants.

Gordon proposed to expand the scope of Section 261, which prohibits the disbursement of public funds 45 days before a regular election and 30 days for a special election to include the transfer or release of public funds for all farm implements, farm input and post-harvest facilities under the DA.

"The task of our legislative inquiries is not to prosecute, but rather to find the truth, look at the gaps and loopholes in our existing laws, and propose amendments to our existing laws so that callous individuals would be prevented from defrauding the government," he said.

The proposed prohibition also covers funds under the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, all livelihood projects; all financial assistance for LGU's and non-government organizations expect for disaster assistance; and all special projects of different departments and their attached agencies.

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