A HOUSE of Representatives-approved bill that seeks to increase the ceiling on campaign expenses is silent on issues such as vote-buying or unreported campaign donations, a political analyst said at the weekend.

“The bill still permits loopholes to overspend, and does not account for illicit campaign spending, such as vote buying and off-the-books individual or corporate donations to candidates and political parties,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convenor of think tank Infrawatch PH, said in a Viber message.

He said the measure that congressmen approved last week does not forbid candidates and political parties from using and buying allowable airtime for other candidates.

Undisclosed donations of people or corporations to a candidate, which may reveal conflicts of interests, illicit connections or criminal activity, are also not covered by the bill, Mr. Ridon said.

He said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) should ensure strict financial reporting 90 days before and after the campaign period.

Under House Bill 8370, presidential candidates may spend as much as P50 per voter, while vice presidential candidates can spend as much as P40 per voter.

Candidates for senator, district representative, governor, board member, mayor, vice mayor, councilor, and party-list may spend as much as P30 per voter registered in the place where they are running. Political parties are allowed to spend P30 for every voter.

The Commission on Elections, in consultation with the central bank, National Economic and Development Authority and Philippine Statistics Authority may adjust the spending cap depending on inflation.

Any contributions in kind will not be subject to donor’s tax.

The proposed law hurdled the House on Aug. 16, but it has no counterpart bill in the Senate.

It seeks to amend Republic Act 7166, which only allows a P10 budget per voter for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, P3 for candidates for senator, party-list and local governments, and P5 for political parties.

Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at Ateneo De Manila University, said the spending limits now date back from the 1980s to 1990s.

“The bill intends to make campaign spending applicable to our present time, to make it more realistic to the present conditions,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

He said a bill that would standardize and monitor activities and campaign donations of political parties should help ensure truthful accounts.

Only three congressmen, those from the minority, voted against the bill because it is “anti-poor” and “anti-democratic.”

“We already cannot increase the minimum wage of our workers to an amount equal to the family living wage. We will only make it more difficult for them to run for public office,” Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said.

Mr. Aguirre said the spending limits would promote accountability for campaign overspending. “Once this is passed, we can expect more electoral reform measures to follow to strengthen our electoral mechanisms and standards.” — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz