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.
The net total spending on television, radio and print ads by the national candidates and party-list groups alone amounted to P4.3 billion across the 90-day official campaign period from February 9 to May 8, 2010.
Based on the PCIJ’s computation, 12-percent of the P4.3 billion corresponds to P517.3 million in expanded value-added tax (EVAT) revenues that should accrue to the public coffers.
THERE are still a few more weeks to go before the May polls, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is already busy counting – political ads, that is, not votes.
Election laws put specific caps on campaign expenditures and political ad airtimes, as well as on the size and frequency of printed campaign ads. With political strategists themselves saying that ads account for as much as 70 percent of the campaign expenditure of a candidate running for a national post, the Comelec has been after documents from broadcast and print media outfits that would show just how many – and for how much – ads candidates have been placing with them since the campaign period began on February 9.
Source: Nielsen Media
The official campaign period started only last February 9, but from November 2009 to February 8, 2010, four candidates for vice president — Liberal Party’s Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas III, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino’s Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay, Nacionalista Party’s Loren Legarda, and Bagumbayan Party’s Bayani Fernando — had already incurred a total of P561.5 million in advertising values for television, radio, and print ads.
According to Comelec Resolution No. 8758 or the “Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 9006, otherwise known as the Fair Election Practices Act in Relation to the May 10, 2010 Synchronized National and Local Elections, and Subsequent Elections,” all media entities, whether print or broadcast, are required to submit copies of their political advertising contracts within five days after these are signed. If a political ad is donated, a written acceptance by the candidate, political party, or party list group for which the donation is being made should be attached to the advertising contract.
BY MAY this year, four of Makati Mayor Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay’s seven-member household (in-laws, grandchildren, and helpers excluded) would have joined the family’s business in Makati: politics. The latest addition would be Mar-Len Abigail or Abby, a 31-year-old lawyer, who is eyeing the congressional seat in the city’s second district.
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