Miriam: Candidates' ad overspending ‘red flag for corruption’

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged voters to treat the advertisement splurge of presidential candidates before the campaign period as indicators of corruption.

“The question we must ask is this: How will these politicians recover the scandalous amounts they spend for their campaign? The simple answer is that they will steal from public funds, or will at least be tempted to do so. An alternative would be to give favors to rich contributors, to the detriment of public interest,” Santiago said.

Santiago was reacting to the reports that four of her rivals in the 2016 polls spent over P2 billion for television advertisements in 2015, ahead of the election campaign period.

Based on the report, Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas was the biggest spender with P774 million, followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay at P695 million; Sen. Grace Poe spent P694 million and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was at P129 million.

On the other hand, Nielsen Philippines showed that the four presidential bets spent around P1.6 billion on television advertisements between January 1 and November 30 where Binay emerged as the top spender followed by Poe with P448,166,000, Roxas with P424,870,000 and Duterte with P115,423,000.

Santiago said that almost all candidates have already spent beyond the expected limit for campaign expenses, citing that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) standards states that every presidential candidate may spend only P10 per voter, or a total of P545 million for the projected 54.5 million voters in 2016.

“A president’s salary is only P120,000 a month. He or she may thus expect to earn only P8.64 million for the six years that he or she is in office. These big spenders therefore cannot say that they will earn their money back if elected,” Santiago said.

“Of course they can say they are not spending their own money, and that their campaign is fuelled by contributions. Who are their contributors? What kind of favors will they ask from the president whose candidacy they bankrolled?” she asked.

Santiago also said that the excessive advertisement spending of candidates contradicts the constitutional principle that “a public office is a public trust” even if the Supreme Court ruling on the 2009 case of Peñera v. Comelec enables politicians to campaign outside the identified period.

“The provision of the Constitution is our guide: They are campaigning to occupy an office, which is a public trust. It might not express a strict legality but a matter of moral conduct on the part of the public officials,” Santiago said.

Santiago said she will also call for a Senate inquiry on political advertisement spending, citing the urgency of her proposed Anti-Premature Act  which seeks to stop candidates from conducting election-related activities before the campaign period and the related CIRPO (certificates of intention to run for public office) Act, requiring politicians to file CIRPOs and let the Comelec monitor their election-related activities and expenses even ahead of filinh for certificates of candidacy.

“By sitting on my bills against premature campaigning, my colleagues in the Senate have missed an opportunity to address a problem before it manifested itself. Now that the problem is staring them in the face, maybe they can be convinced to act,” Santiago said.












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