WEEKS after the May 2010 elections, a question confounded Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ C. Aquino III and his fund-raisers and allies in the Liberal Party: What to do with excess campaign donations that had then reached tens of millions of pesos?
In winner-takes-all fashion, not just votes but also funds had flooded the Aquino camp. This is even as a fund-raiser and a senior campaign staff would later say in separate interviews that Aquino had already served notice that he did not want to accept more donations. In Aquino’s mind, says the senior campaign staff, the last-minute bettors were not true believers but simply people angling to cut deals with the emerging election victor.
IF LAWS on campaign finance were enforced to the letter, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada, and Sergio Osmeña III, along with Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda R. Marcos and perhaps even Vice President Jejomar Binay should not be occupying their seats right now. That would be because they or the political parties that nominated them have yet to submit to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SECE), as required by law.
IT WAS 1992; Fidel V. Ramos had just been voted as president, and Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada as vice president. Presidential bet Miriam Defensor Santiago was crying foul, saying she had been cheated. She would later file an electoral protest, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was apparently more interested in something else: conducting its first ever audit of the campaign contributions and expenses of candidates for president, vice president, and senators for the then recently concluded polls.
The Comelec, then headed by Christian Monsod, seemed serious, and even formed a committee to examine the books of account of candidates, political parties, donors, and media entities. Lawyer Josefina de la Cruz, who became part of that committee, also recalls that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Commission on Audit (COA), and the National Bureau of Investigation served as Comelec’s “counterparts” in the initiative.
THEY are avowed representatives of the poor and the marginalized, but in the May 10, 2010 elections, 12 party-list groups allied with two candidates for president, one for vice president, and one for senator splurged a staggering P426.16 million on television ads that aired in the last two weeks of the campaign period.
Where they got the millions to burn for these candidates, despite their claimed poverty, is the ambiguity. But why they burned millions on political ads that featured the four candidates, not their party-list groups, is the absurdity.
PCIJ tried to reach the political parties and candidates involved, with varying levels of success. Attempts to pin down Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, for example, were rebuffed. According to his staff, they are simply too busy and referred PCIJ to the Liberal Party.
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, the May 10, 2010 polls was the costliest ever in Philippine electoral history.
The top candidates for president and vice president alone spent P4.3 billion on political ads during the official 90-day campaign period, and another billion 90 days before the campaign commenced, according to Nielsen Media’s monitoring of tens of thousands of political ad clips.
But for various reasons, the May 10, 2010 elections could also go down in the country’s annals as a grand spectacle of lies, half-truths, and concealed truths foisted on the Filipino voters.
AS A veteran fund-raiser for presidential candidates tells it, there are fewer awkward moments in the campaign than a meeting between the candidate and a potential donor, especially if they are seeing each other for the first time.
Recalling one such meeting ahead of the recent May 10 polls, the fund-raiser says that what actually lasted a fleeting 15 minutes seemed to take forever. “They talked about everything else except the money,” the moneyman tells the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on condition of anonymity. “At the end, when there was nothing else to talk about, the donor just said ‘By the way, here’s something for the campaign.’”
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