Go, Marcos and Roxas among the top pre-campaign ad spenders – PCIJ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — The campaign season for senatorial candidates has just started, but some have already spent millions of pesos for pre-campaign ad materials.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) published a report on 20 well-known senatorial candidates based on data collated by Nielsen Media.

The top five pre-campaign period ad spenders are, in order: Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Mar Roxas, Harry Roque before he withdrew his campaign bid, and Sonny Angara.

Go spent approximately ₱422 million, Marcos an approximate ₱413 million and Roxas an approximate ₱407 million. This is more than double the ₱174 million spent by Roque and the ₱156 million spent by Angara.

The PCIJ noted that some of the candidates spent more than what they declared in their latest available Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Go, in his latest SALN, declared a net worth of only ₱12.8 million.

"He bought political ads 32.9 times in value compared to his total personal wealth. Minus all that he owns, PhP409.6 million was the unfunded balance of his ad buys that Go might have paid using money from either public or private sources," the PCIJ said.

Marcos and Roxas formed not only the top three ad spenders with Go, but also rounded up the top three candidates who spent more than what they declared in their SALNs.

Marcos' latest SALN declared a net worth of ₱24.5 million, while Roxas declared a net worth of ₱202 million.

Other candidates who are said to have spent past their net worth are — in no particular order — Roque, Angara, Bam Aquino, Grace Poe, Francis Tolentino, Gary Alejano, and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

"The possible sources of those millions of pesos poured into pre-campaign ads include hidden or unexplained wealth, public funds, and even indirect bribery from private donors," the PCIJ said.

Meanwhile, Cynthia Villar, who declared a net worth of P3.6 billion, had spent P3.5 billion on campaign ads, the PCIJ reported.

Candidates who have spent within their means — in no particular order — are Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Pia Cayetano, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, and Zajid "Dong" Mangudadatu.

The PCIJ also ranked the top spenders for television ads for a 13-month period before January 2019.

In order, these are:

Bong Go, PhP422,498,647;

Imee Marcos, PhP413,160,423;

Mar Roxas, PhP401,264,380;

Harry Roque, PhP174,013,944;

Sonny Angara, PhP156,739,657;

Bam Aquino, PhP136,490,982;

Grace Poe, PhP99,385,184;

Francis Tolentino, PhP92,479,821;

Cynthia Villar, PhP80,838,942;

Gary Alejano, PhP76,403,080;

Friends of JPE (Juan Ponce Enrile), PhP72,552,000;

Bong Revilla, PhP51,213,850;

Pia Cayetano, PhP46,027,000;

Nancy Binay, PhP37,131,740;

JV Estrada, PhP26,387,900;

Koko Pimentel, PhP22,798,000;

Jinggoy Estrada, PhP21,945,000;

Zajid Mangudadatu, PhP21,357,000;

Bong Revilla Family, PhP13,257,000;

Jiggy Manicad, PhP11,919,03.

Nielsen Media used the rate card of media agencies to approximate the amount spent by these candidates.

Several candidates have distanced themselves from this report.

Pimentel, in a statement, called the report "fake news with manufactured data."

Angara said that he has only spent approximately P10 million to P20 million on ads.

"(I am) quite amused because we spent nowhere near that amount. (I spent) much less between 10 to 20 (million pesos)," Angara said.

Many candidates spend personal money on campaign ads. But traditionally, many sponsors also contribute to candidates for the payment of their campaign ads. The Commission on Elections has repeatedly said that a loophole in the law allows senatorial aspirants to campaign and spend without limit before the official campaign period starts.

CNN Philippines correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report