MANILA - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Sunday urged voters to treat as red flags for corruption the large advertising spending of candidates for the 2016 elections.
"The question we must ask is this: How will these politicians recover the scandalous amounts they spend for their campaign? The simple answer is that they will steal from public funds, or will at least be tempted to do so. An alternative would be to give favors to rich contributors, to the detriment of public interest," Santiago said in a statement.
The senator was responding to reports that her four fellow presidential rivals have already spent a total of P2.3 billion for television ads from January to December 2015, even before the start of the election period.
Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas was reportedly the top spender, shelling out P774 million.
He was followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay who spent P695 million; Senator Grace Poe, P694 million; and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, P129 million.
Santiago pointed out that almost all candidates have already spent beyond the expected limit for campaign expenses.
By Commission on Elections (Comelec) standards, every presidential candidate may spend only P10 per voter. This is equal to a total of P545 million for the projected 54.5 million voters in 2016.
Santiago noted that with a monthly salary of only P120,000, the next president may only expect to earn P8.64 million in six years.
"These big spenders therefore cannot say that they will earn their money back if elected," she said.
"Of course, they can say they are not spending their own money, and that their campaign is fuelled by contributions. Who are their contributors? What kind of favors will they ask from the president whose candidacy they bankrolled?" Santiago asked.
The senator added that while politicians are allowed to campaign outside the identified period, excessive ad spending contradicts the constitutional principle that "a public office is a public trust."