Santiago wants lifestyle check of rivals over ad spending

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism based its report from Nielsen Media, which covered ads purchased from TV, radio, and print media.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Presidential candidate Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Wednesday (March 9) that the billions collectively spent by her rivals on election advertisements should warrant graft and corruption investigations.

She said this in a press release after a three-part Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report revealed that a total of P3.2 billion were spent by four other presidential bets from January 2015 to January 2016 — before the campaign period even began.

PCIJ got its information from Nielsen Media's monitoring reports, which covered ads purchased from TV, radio, and print media.

Related: Social media expert: Digital campaign of candidates is ‘lackluster’

Santiago questioned how her rivals could afford to spend for the ads.

“They spent at least five times the net worth they have declared for ads. One candidate even spent by 17 times his net worth. Where did they get the money? If the public is to speculate, they would think that these candidates have either stolen from public funds or peddled their influence,” she said.

Ad spending vs. SALN

If you take a look at the 2014 statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of the candidates, the PCIJ noted that none of them could fund a multi-million-peso or even a billion-peso campaign.

Out of the five presidential bets, United Nationalist Alliance standard bearer Jejomar Binay has spent the most for pre-election ads at more than P1.05 billion. His 2014 SALN declared his net worth at around P60.25 million.

Independent candidate Grace Poe also reached the billion-peso mark, spending a total of P1.01 billion. Her declared net worth in 2014 was around P89.46 million.

Manuel "Mar" Roxas II of the Liberal Party and Rodrigo Duterte of the PDP-Laban Party have spent P969,173,267 and P146,351,131 for ads, respectively. Roxas' net worth in 2014 was at around P202 million, while Duterte was at around P21.97 million.

People’s Reform Party candidate Santiago was the only one who did not spend for pre-campaign ads, the PCIJ said.

Looking at the ad spending and the 2014 SALN of those running for the presidency, PCIJ said that it was only Santiago who "remain in surplus spending status." The senator's net worth in 2014 was at around P73.03 million.

P10 per voter

Someone running for the president or vice president position is allowed to spend up to P10 per voter during the campaign period. With 54.3 million registered voters, this translates to P543 million.

“Almost all of these candidates are incumbent public officials, and have access to government funds. They are also prohibited by law from receiving gifts ‘if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive,’” Santiago said, citing the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019).

Public officials who accept gifts that are of "manifestly excessive" could be considered as a possible case of "indirect bribery," the PCIJ report said citing Commission on Elections Commissioner Christian Robert Lim.

Although accepting donations are standard practice during elections, Santiago said candidates are still obliged to reveal who these donors are. She added that a donor's tax — amounting to 30 percent — must be paid for contributions received outside the campaign period.

Also read: Comelec sets airtime limits for political advertisements

“The people deserve to know who bankroll the campaigns of elective officials so that when a campaign contributor enjoys benefits to the detriment of the public under the official’s watch, the people would know who to hold accountable,” Santiago said.