THE CLOCK is ticking on the men and women who want to throw their hat in the political ring for the 2016 elections.
The period for filing of certificates of candidacy in all elective positions is from Oct. 12 to 16, 2015. More than 18,000 national and local positions are up for grabs in next year’s polls.
The official campaign period for the positions of president, vice president, senator and party-list representative will start on Feb. 9, 2016 and go on for 90 days. For congressional and local government positions, it’s March 25, 2016 and will end 45 days after.
This early though, several prospective candidates for national positions are airing radio and TV advertisements touting their qualifications and accomplishments.
Although these activities clearly constitute premature campaigning, they are, following a Supreme Court decision, permissible because the persons concerned have not yet filed their certificate of candidacy.
Aside from the aspirants, the coming political exercise is also being looked at closely by the country’s top business owners and executives.
The business philosophy of the person who will take over Malacañang or the party that takes control of Congress will have an impact on future business plans.
Ahead of the 2016 polls, the question that Big Business has to ponder on is whether to stay in the sidelines, or support (directly or indirectly) the candidates who they think can be of assistance to them later and, at the same time, have good chances of winning.
Betting on the wrong horses in political exercises could give rise to adverse consequences.
For strategic purposes, it pays to be in the good graces of the country’s powers-that-be who can, with their rule-making or legislative powers, make or break a business.
The rule of thumb in giving political support is, the earlier it’s given the better because it shows willingness to take risks and not to wait when the tide is clearly in a candidate’s favor.
Offers of support made when the possible poll results are already apparent will be accepted but the sense of gratitude given to Johnny-come-lately donors will be lesser compared to those who hedged their bets early in the campaign.
If the elections laws were to be strictly implemented, donations or financial assistance to electoral campaigns can be made only by natural persons and unregistered organizations.
The Corporation Code prohibits domestic and foreign corporations from giving “donations in aid of any political party or candidate or for purposes of partisan political activity.”
The prohibition is aimed at avoiding situations where corporations that donate to politicians receive preferential treatment from public officials who benefited from such donations.
The ban on political contributions by corporations is more specific in the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881) which took effect in 1985.
This law bars political donations by companies that, among others, engage in financial transactions, operate public utilities, exploit natural resources, supply government offices with products and services, and have been granted franchises or special privileges by the government.
Looking closely at these corporations, their businesses are the most profitable in the country and they represent the proverbial “one percent” in the business community.
Their stocks are the darlings of the stock market. Millions of pesos can be lost or earned when the prices of their stocks fluctuate wildly.
In other words, they are the companies with lots of money to spare or throw around. They’re the big spenders the candidates would gladly give an arm and a leg to be on their side or, if that’s not possible, away from their opponents.
Their donations, whether in cash (which is preferred) or in kind, e.g., T-shirts, leaflets, tarpaulins and other campaign paraphernalia, could, in a tightly contested election, spell the difference between victory and defeat.
In case of victory, the payback can be many times over the monetary donation, especially if the business of the donor requires government approval for the fees and charges it imposes for the use of its facilities, or its products are subject to tariffs and duties.
It is common knowledge that the prohibition on corporate donations for partisan purposes is observed more in breach than followed in its letter or spirit. It’s one of many “idealistic” provisions in our election laws that are violated with impunity.
When a corporation covered by the ban on political donation is approached for support by candidates for positions that play a significant role in its business, saying “no” could be problematic.
Most politicians have an elephant’s memory. They remember who turned them down when they sought their assistance, or helped them when their political fortunes were on the balance, or offered help only when they were already on their way to victory.
Given the reality of our political system, it is futile to expect Big Business to faithfully comply with the prohibition on political donations in the coming polls. Through some accounting wizardry and legal mumbo jumbo, the corporations covered by the ban on political donations can extend financial or material support to their preferred candidates without being caught.
It’s been 30 years since that ban was imposed. To date, no company has been prosecuted for violating it. It’s either the companies concerned are law-abiding [which is hard to believe] or they’ve been able to cover their tracks and escape prosecution [which is more plausible].
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