Discount on political ads won't benefit poorer candidates - poll watchdog

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2019 02:47 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2019 03:19 PM

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MANILA - A law giving election candidates additional discounts on political ads will only benefit those with a substantial campaign kitty, poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) said Sunday.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week approved the measure amending the Fair Election Act and raising discount rates for political ads on television, radio and print. The measure is expected to allow candidates to reach more voters and market their platforms better.
 
The measure fails to level the political playing field because candidates would still need millions of pesos for broadcast ads, said Lente senior project director Mae Butoy.

A 30-second TV ad, she noted, costs about P250,000.

"The candidates who have lesser resources, I don't think they'll ever be able to take advantage of broadcast TV through political ads even if you increase the discounts," she told ANC.

"It adds more advantage to those who are currently putting out a lot of ads out there because now they have more money to spend and they have more political ads that they can put out there," she said.

Butoy said it was also puzzling that lawmakers did not prioritize more important measures like strengthening Comelec's regulatory powers over campaign expenses, as well as curbing political dynasties.

Ads, she added, would only boost name recall among voters and would not detail "substantive parts of the candidates' platforms."

There are "better ways" to reach voters, including debates that reveal "how these candidates think, how smart they are, what their platforms are," she said.

Senatorial candidates at 7 p.m. Sunday will face off in the first on a series of "Harapan 2019" debates organized by ABS-CBN News.