OUR election laws allow a presidential candidate to spend not more than P10 per registered voter as campaign expense. That means Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar, Richard Gordon, Joseph Estrada, Gilbert Teodoro, Brother Eddie Villanueva, JC de los Reyes and Nick Perlas each are not allowed by law to spend more than P400 million during the entire campaign up to Election Day.
There are two main reasons for the prohibition: first, because an excessive campaign expense is a heavy baggage to a winning candidate, one that can affect his independence and sense of public service; and second, because it creates an unequal playing field. Not all candidates can afford to spend as if money was going out-of-style.
Now let’s take a look at one specific item of expenditure: media advertisement. Let’s even narrow it down to television ads, more popularly known now as “infomercials”. I understand the average primetime cost of an infomercial on national television is about P300,000.00 for one 30-second spot.
Watch the ads of our presidential candidates. The infomercials of one of them has been telecast about six times a night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., on ANC, ABS-CBN and on GMA for the last three months.
That’s P1.8 million per station per night, or P5.4 million a night. Campaign period for presidential candidates is 90 days. If he goes on at just that rate, our candidate will already spend P486,000,000.00 on his infomercial alone, P86 million more than the law allows him to spend, not only for his infomercials BUT FOR HIS ENTIRE CAMPAIGN EXERCISE. He has not yet spent for payroll, meals, headquarters, rallies, etc. In fact, the 90-day campaign period has not even started. It will only begin tomorrow, February 9. That means our big-spending candidate has already violated our Election Law before campaign time has even begun.
Of course our big spenders can always claim that since the campaign period have not yet begun, all infomercial expenses before February 9 cannot be considered or counted as campaign-related. That, however, is begging the obvious. The spirit and intent of the law is to curb excessive spending and to level the playing field. Those 6 or 7 nightly infomercials go against the spirit and intent of the law.
If a candidate has spent close to half a billion pesos in infomercials alone, and before the campaign period, how many billions will he need to spend before Election Day? And for what? For P65,000.00 in monthly salary as our President, or a total of P4.6 million in a 6-year term? No wonder we cannot elect an honest president.
Want to elect an honest president, one who is not likely to go corrupt or to steal, or to allow the government officers and personnel below him to go corrupt and to steal? Vote the one who will not spend more than P400 million.