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Legislating Electoral Campaign Finance Reform in the Philippines: Examining Lessons from Southeast Asia

Equal opportunities for citizens of the Philippines to assume public office through elections are guaranteed by the Constitution, but current campaign finance rules are found flawed and lacking effectively making elections in the country unfair. This paper compares the Philippines’ campaign finance policy with its fellow flawed democracies in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The comparisons were made through a conceptual framework that accounts for incentives for incumbent parties towards political self-preservation, political actors and institutions, historical precedents and legacies, and recent shocks and scandals. From the comparisons, the research recommends 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 Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the institutionalization of political parties in the Philippines. Sustained 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.


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