Everything you've wanted to know about RP politics, but were afraid to ask.

Campaign reimbursement offers: Bribery or indecent proposal?

Posted by akosistella on March 12, 2010

By Butch Fernandez

TWO senatorial bets who served as justice secretary in different administrations could not agree on the potential liability of candidates implicated in allegations that huge sums of money were being dangled as “reimbursements” to rival candidates in exchange for withdrawing from the May 10 presidential derby.

In separate interviews after appearing at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum, Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial bet Silvestre Bello III, a justice secretary during the Ramos administration, and former senator Frank Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP), who was a justice secretary in the Aquino administration, gave different legal opinions when asked if offering to reimburse campaign expenses of candidates constitute a criminal offense.

“Yes [it is]. That is tantamount to bribery,” Bello told the Businessmirror, adding that the parties involved could face possible prosecution even after the elections for committing what Bello believes to be a criminal act. “Lalo na ’pag may kapalit.”

But Drilon contends the transgression could only be classified as an “indecent proposal.”

“I am not sure if it could fall under bribery…it is a gray area to me,” Drilon said.

He added that “as a lawyer, I still have to see what law is being violated here. Maybe there is an election-law provision that would cover that so I am not saying there is no law [that is transgressed].”

As the presidential-campaign season intensified, rival political camps swapped charges about alleged offers to reimburse campaign expenses of certain candidates if they agree to drop out of the race.

Former President Joseph Estrada, standard-bearer of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino, was the first to reveal that he was asked to withdraw from the race. Estrada declined to identify where the tender came from but his campaign manager, former Senate president Ernesto Maceda, named Mike Velarde, a known ally of Sen. Manuel Villar, the Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer.

Then it was Bagumbayan presidential bet Sen. Richard Gordon who alleged that an unnamed emissary of Villar also offered to name him to a Cabinet position of his choice and reimburse his campaign expenses if he withdraws in Villar’s favor, a charge that NP leaders flatly denied.

The other day, it was Sen. Loren Legarda, Villar’s running mate, who disclosed that Sen. Mar Roxas of the LP “tried to broker a deal” for her to withdraw from the race, quoting Roxas as having told her just before the Senate adjourned last month: “If there’s any way that you can support my principal [LP presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino] and me, if there’s anything you want, we can provide.”

LP leaders quickly debunked Legarda’s allegations.

On Wednesday it was independent presidential aspirant Sen. Jamby Madrigal’s turn to claim that she was offered P1 billion last year to stop her from accusing Villar of alleged involvement in the alleged P6-billion C-5 Road Project scandal. (BusinessMirror)


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