P211-M daily campaign ad spend shows 'we can't have poor candidates'

P211-M daily campaign ad spend shows 'we can't have poor candidates'
A man removes a campaign poster from a tree on April 19, 2022.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Handout

MANILA, Philippines —  The race for a national position has become more expensive after bets spent as much as P211 million daily on advertising during this year’s 90-day campaign, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said based on reports from Nielsen Ad Intel. 

PCIJ pointed out, however, that Nielsen’s reports were based on published television, radio, and print rate cards and candidates may have availed of discounts prior to the campaign so actual spending may or may not be lower than projected.

With the P211-million daily spend, national candidates are estimated to have availed of P18.425-billion worth of ads during the three-month official campaign.

"This doesn’t include yet P18.7-billion worth of ads spent from January 2021 until the day before the official campaign period ended," PCIJ Editorial Content Head Karol Ilagan said in a forum on Thursday.

Church-based poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) points out that the elections "have become expensive."

"We can no longer have ‘poor candidates’ but we presume that our Congress would enact laws that would level the playing field if they wanted to," said Arwin Serrano, member of the PPCRV board of trustees.

"But I don’t think that our lawmakers will prioritize such bills if ever they would think or enacting one or proposing one."

READ: De Guzman: Government media should help bets bring platform to the public

Poll watchdogs are calling for a more transparent way of reporting election spending, noting that financers of some political candidates may have their own objectives, as well as updating the country’s campaign finance laws such as adjusting expenditure limits and putting a cap on contributions from donors. 

Former Commission on Elections Commissioner Luie Guia pointed out that "campaign finance is also a good governance and anti-corruption measure."

Data on campaign financing

Data on campaign financing may be accessed through the poll body via candidates’ statements of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) and contractor reports. 

PCIJ showed a summary of the presidential candidates’ SOCE. Top candidate Marcos Jr. received P624.684 million and spent P623.230 million, while ranking second, former Vice President Leni Robredo received P388.327 million in contributions and financed P19,779 out of pocket as her total expenses were valued at P388.347 million.

Meanwhile, Duterte spent all the P216.190 million in contributions she received. Former Sen. Pangilinan spent a total of P130.616 million, P109.520 million of which were contributions, while P21.096 million were from his personal funds, and former Senate President Sotto spent a total of P157.155 million during the campaign, P107.763 million were contributed and P49.391 was personally funded.

Meanwhile, monitoring entities such as Nielsen or the Facebook Ad Library also provide insight into how and where candidates spend their funds on. 

Where did their money go?

Nielsen data show:

  • Candidates spent nearly P38.947 billion on political advertising, which also includes “some government advertising,” from January last year to May 2022. They made use of 267,436 spots covering 8,190,625 seconds-worth of ads.

  • In the same period, they noted that Sens. Joel Villanueva, Mark Villar, and Alan Peter Cayetano as well as former Vice President Leni Robredo and former Manila Mayor Isko Moreno spent over P2 billion before and during the official campaign. Villanueva aired ads valued at P2.775 billion in total.

  • Robredo, Senators Villar and Villanueva, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. were reportedly the top ad spenders on mainstream media having spent P1 billion each on ads during the campaign period, with Robredo topping the list at P1.149-billion. 

  • In terms of presidential tandem ad spending, Robredo and former Sen. Francis Pangilinan spent the most for advertising followed by the former senators Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III, Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte, with former Sen. Manny Pacquiao and former Rep. Lito Atienza trailing behind.

  • The top four party-lists who spent on ads before the campaign period include ACT-CIS Party-list, Ang Probinsyano Party-list, Cibac Party-list, and AKO Bicol Party-list.

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