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.
THE PHILIPPINE PRESS, widely held to be the freest and most rambunctious in Southeast Asia, has no reason to boast and gloat as journalists across the globe observe World Press Freedom Day today.
Aside from the string of unsolved murders of journalists, spotty compliance and outright mockery of the law on the disclosure of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) by the country’s justices, lawmakers and executive officials continue to hinder the people’s right to know – ironically this year’s theme in commemorating press freedom.
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.
The popular perception is that running an election campaign has the potential of reducing a candidate to penury. Yet none of those who had served or today want to serve as president and vice president has come close to breaching the spending limit – or even to going shirtless and hungry – according to the separate “Statements of Electoral Contributions and Expenses” they had filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) over the last 12 years.
BENIGNO SIMEON ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III has become the third member of his immediate family to be thrust into the vortex of what a sociologist calls periodic episodes of “romanticism” in Philippine politics and history.
But the real burden of the senator and now presidential aspirant is not just proving his sincerity and integrity. He also has to declare what he stands for, and on his own merits and in his words, convince a public awash in goodwill for the Aquinos that he is a worthy son to his parents, and a worthy candidate to the highest post in the country.
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