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Revised Omnibus Election Code pushed to modernize PH polls

MANILA – Assessing the issues and challenges from the recent 2022 national and local elections (NLE), the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), together with research experts and an election watchdog, called on Congress to pass a new legislation that will revise the existing Omnibus Election Code (OEC).

During a policy forum by the La Salle Institute of Governance (LSIG) last September 21, COMELEC Chairperson George Garcia said that the current election code needs an overhaul to ensure that it addresses the existing issues in the electoral process. “The Omnibus Election Code at this point needs not only [an] amendment but a revision.”

“COMELEC is a constitutional body, although it has a vast power as contained in the Constitution, the powers are so limited that it will depend on legislation to be enacted by Congress,” Chair Garcia explained.

Kung mapapansin po ng lahat, ang kalimitan po nating problema sa kasalukuyan ay ‘yung problem ng kawalan ng batas o mga lumang batas na ginagamit sa makabagong panahon. Hindi na siya nakakasagot sa mga kasalukuyang katanungan (If everyone would notice, our problems at the moment are due to the lack of, or outdated, laws that we are using today. These laws are not responding to today’s needs).”

Election code revision to strengthen COMELEC

Supplementing this call, a policy brief presented during the forum showed that the past election “exposed the capacity and autonomy weaknesses of COMELEC as an electoral management body.”

“The problems identified by the study have shown how previous reforms in the commission have failed to address its capacity issues and while there have been improvements, it remains vulnerable to autonomy issues,” the document read. “More substantive reforms are needed including the decoupling of the administration and adjudication functions of the commission and updating of the 1985 Omnibus Election Code.” Among the authors of the policy brief are De La Salle University (DLSU) Department of Political Science Associate Professor Dr. Cleo Anne A. Calimbahin and Assistant Professorial Lecturer Kevin Nielsen M. Agojo, and Australia National University (ANU) doctoral student Mary Joyce Borromeo-Bulao.

According to the policy brief, the revisions should include “merit-based standards on appointments of election commissioners; enforcement of rules on the reshuffling of field personnel; stringent penalties on withdrawals and substitutions of candidates; and monitoring of social media spending of candidates and political parties, among others.”

More transparent campaign finance seen

In addition to the above, policies on campaign finance were also determined as one of the reforms that need to be pushed for better transparency and political engagement. One of the policy briefs recommended that there should be “a clearly defined list of limitations on contributors and donations, a context-sensitive system of expenditure limits, an open system of annual financial disclosure by parties, and an equitable system of subsidies.”

"These reforms, however, would hinge on reforming and strengthening the COMELEC and the institutionalization of political parties in the Philippines,” the document read. “COMELEC is in urgent need of streamlining and resource optimization, and not just the provision of more financial and technical resources. The institutionalization of political parties also needs to be legislated and implemented with full force and conviction.”

Authored by DLSU Department of Political Science Professorial Lecturer Gerardo Eusebio, the paper reiterated that “[s]ustained public scrutiny, emphasis on recent violations as patterns of corruption, and cognizance of the political incentives at play are needed for the reform agenda to succeed.”

Access the policy briefs here.

View the event livestream here.


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