Campaign reforms pushed as report shows candidates splurged billions on ads

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2022 06:01 PM

MANILA –– The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on Thursday reported that national candidates in the recently held elections spent an estimated average of P211 million per day on ads on mainstream media during the 90-day campaign period.

This prompted advocates to push for reforms in what they say as the country's "outdated" campaign finance law.

twitter IMG

PCIJ editorial director Karol Ilagan said their report was based on data provided by market research firm Nielsen Ad Intel, which monitored the candidates' airtime before and during the campaign period.

Ilagan said their figures are based on established rate cards, so “actual amount could be lower” if discounts were actually given to candidates by media entities.

PCIJ pointed out there is a need for data from contractors or media companies to be disclosed.

TOP SPENDERS

Former Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Mark Villar, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, and Sen. Joel Villanueva recorded more than P1-billion worth of ads each during the 90-day campaign period from February 8 to May 7:

  • Leni Robredo: P1,149,091,415
  • Mark Villar: P1,134,385,000
  • Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.: P1,097,522,180
  • Joel Villanueva: P1,047,097,778

Former Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso almost breached P1 billion, spending on ads worth P966.50 million.

Among presidential candidates, Robredo spent the most on ads during the campaign period (P1.15 billion), followed by Marcos (P1.10 billion), Domagoso (P966.50 million), Manny Pacquiao (P78 million) and Panfilo "Ping" Lacson (P43.73 million).

Among vice presidential candidates, Vice President Sara Duterte spent the most at P683.81 million, followed by former Senate President Tito Sotto (P665.37 million) and former Senator Francis Pangilinan (P543.70 million).

Robredo and Pangilinan spent most in tandem ads during the campaign period, followed by Lacson-Sotto, Marcos-Duterte, and Pacquiao-Atienza.

twitter IMG

The Top 15 ad spenders among senatorial candidates during the campaign period include are the following:

  • Villar (P1.13 billion)
  • Villanueva (P1.05 billion)
  • Richard Gordon (P891.08 million)
  • Alan Peter Cayetano (P801.46 million)
  • Jinggoy Estrada (P799.69 million)
  • Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri (P763.03 million)
  • Loren Legarda (P757.90 million)
  • Jejomar Binay (697.55 million)
  • Sherwin Gatchalian (P662.16 million)
  • Harry Roque (P623.86 million)
  • Risa Hontiveros (P562.30 million)
  • JV Ejercito (P632.82 million)
  • Chiz Escudero (P514.17 million)
  • Raffy Tulfo (P323.52 million)
  • Robin Padilla (P263.69 million)

Meantime, five candidates breached P2 billion expenditure when ads that appeared before the official campaign period were added in the computation.

  1. Joel Villanueva: P2,775,878,768
  2. Mark Villar: P2,770,045,914
  3. Alan Peter Cayetano: P2,281,374,623
  4. Leni Robredo: P2,186,472,860
  5. Isko Moreno Domagoso: P2,019,466,437

'WAKE UP CALL'

Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Tito Guia said the massive spending of candidates in the 2022 elections should be a "wake-up call” to push for policy and administrative reform to level the playing field by adjusting spending limits to a “more reasonable level” and putting a cap on campaign donations.

He said that campaign finance is also a governance and anti-corruption issue, noting that political donations may have an impact on policymaking and give way to possible conflicts of interest.

“We don't want money to be dictating electoral choices," Guia said.

The Comelec so far has not released the full copy of candidates’ statements of electoral expenses and contributions (SOCE), which include the candidates' donors. The poll body only released the portion containing a summary of the total expenses and contributions received.

Guia said candidates should explain why their SOCEs showed much lower amounts compared to Nielsen's data.

“We want to have a transparent campaign finance report. I think this is more important than expenditure limit in a way dahil gusto mong alam dapat ng taumbayan kung sino ang nagba-bankroll sa mga kandidato,” Guia said.

(We want to have a transparent campaign finance report. I think this is more important than expenditure limit in a way because you want it to be written and the public should know who bankrolls candidates.)

Basing on the SOCE alone, Marcos spent the most among all candidates, reporting expenditures totaling over P623 million, supposed to have been entirely paid for by contributions in cash and in kind.

REFORMS

Ilagan of the PCIJ said it would help if the Comelec also releases the report of contractors to see if the candidates’ reports on expenses match.

“If you get that, dapat if you add that up, dapat mag-match siya sa dineclare ng kandidato sa kanyang SOCE. Actually 'yun nga, it takes a village kasi dapat lahat din ng contractors at suppliers would prove their reports to Comelec," Ilagan said.

(If you get that, if you add that up, it should match with what the candidate declared in their SOCE. Actually that's the thing, it takes a village because all contractors and suppliers would prove their reports to Comelec.)

"So medyo may difficulty talaga doon. Maybe one thing to highlight also is in terms of trying to have the SOCEs readily available and accessible. Kasi right now, ang tagal nang nai-submit ng mga SOCEs but until now wala pa ring nakaka-access in full noong mga SOCEs from our candidates,” she added.

(So there's a bit of difficulty. Maybe one thing to highlight also is in terms of trying to have the SOCEs readily available and accessible because right now SOCEs have long been submitted but until now no one has access in full to the candidates' SOCEs.)

Legal Network for Truth Elections (LENTE) executive director Rona Ann Caritos said it is time to revisit the definition of “candidate” to include the time from one’s filing of a certificate of candidacy.

She also agrees to put a cap on contributions.

“When we talk about campaign finance, one good principle to have in mind is a level playing field. Dapat pantay-pantay ang mga kandidato when they run in the elections… What we saw from the data is that it's not a level playing field. If you are a rich candidate, then you have the advantage. Pero kung mahirap ka at wala kang pera, luging-lugi ka talaga,” Caritos said.

(When we talk about campaign finance, one good principle to have in mind is a level playing field. We must ensure equal footing among candidates when they run in the elections... What we saw from the data is that it's not a level playing field. If you are a rich candidate, then you have the advantage. But if you're poor and you do not have the money, you're at a disadvantage.)

On social media, Robredo recorded the most number of ads on Facebook, although the bulk of the ads was paid for by her supporters on the platform with P58.75 million spent to promote during the 90-day campaign period, based on Facebook's Ad Library.

Out of this amount, only P11 million worth of ads were posted on her official pages, according to the PCIJ.

Lacson's official page topped ad spending on Facebook among presidential candidates, spending P12.67 million while his supporters paid an additional P4.96 million.

Domagoso spent about P27.79 million on Facebook ads, paid almost entirely by his supporters.

Marcos’ official page had ads worth P2.02 million on Facebook while his supporters paid for ads worth P44,504. Vice President Sara Duterte recorded zero spending on social media while supporters paid for ads worth P57,866.

 ––With a report from Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

FROM THE ARCHIVE

Watch more News on iWantTFC