FORMER President Joseph Estrada on Thursday admitted that they are having some difficulty raising campaign funds but expressed optimism it will be resolved when the next round of opinion survey results come out.

Estrada said he expects to do better than his current third place standing.

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Interviewed during his campaign sortie in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, Estrada, who is the standard bearer of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) said campaign donors, especially businessmen are wary of parting with their money due to the current economic problems.

“We are falling short of campaign funds even if we have friends helping us in our campaign. We know that they are also leery. Based on my experience, supports flood when the election day draws near,” Estrada said in the vernacular.

“It is harder this time because of our economy, our businessmen also have a hard time,” he added.

At the same time, he said his current third place standing in opinion surveys may have been a factor though he said survey results are still unpredictable.

The former chief executive said the preference of the people in the May 10 elections will only likely be known from one month to two weeks before the election day itself adding that for now the highest post in the last is still up for grabs.

He further explained that the electorates are intelligent enough to know that the candidate who spent the most would most likely recoup his election expenses once he is in office.

Estrada has consistently placed third in various surveys behind Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Estrada’s running mate, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay said leadership skills, experience and governance are the main factors in this year’s election.

For his part, Estrada’s son and re-electionist senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said to make up for the funding shortfall, they are doing more campaign sorties to reach out to their supporters.

Likewise, he said they are also making use of ads in radio which are less expensive than TV commercials.

Like his father, the younger Estrada also expects the next survey results would play a great part in campaign funding.

“When the survey results improved, we expect the contribution to pour in. Every survey is very crucial to us,” he added.

For his part, PMP senatorial bet Francisco “Kit” Tatad dismissed the notion that the candidate who spend more is the likely winner citing his previous experiences when he run for the Senate in 1992 and 1995.

“I have always believed that a candidate should not spend much more than he is going to earn in public office so don’t look at what I am spending now, look at what I spent when I ran successfully in the senate on two occasions. The first time, some people spent hundreds of millions to lose in the elections, I spent 3 million pesos to win the elections, in 1995 I think seven million pesos.

Another PMP senatorial candidate, Apolinario “Jun” Lozada said they would spend and maximize their resources wisely.

“We are just spending our little money wisely, effectively and we also have to conform what happening now we don’t want to be branded as very insensitive to the plight of our people now. But the truth to matter is we do not have money also, we are trying to budget every centavo that we have and were all helping each other in order to cope up with the expenses,” Lozada explained.

He also chided other candidates who spend “ostentatiously” saying it is unconscionable to spend billions of pesos when many Filipinos are going hungry.

“It is difficult to explain to the people who cannot eat wisely and who cannot really survive with complete meals everyday that there are people who would like to lead the country who spend too much expenditure. In the end it is not really the number of pesos or dollars that you have but it’s really how much you have informed the people of your platform or your views and how serious you are in communicating with them,” he added.

A study conducted by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) showed that the top six presidential candidates spend more than P991 million for ads on radio, TV and the print media from November 2009 to January 2010.

The report also showed that in the last three months before the official campaign period, six of the 10 presidential candidates led by Villar spend a whopping P2.1 billion on ads.

Villar bested the other candidates in spending with P1 billion followed while Estrada is in sixth place with P84 million.

Debate

Amid the issue on Noynoy-Villar one-on-one debate, Estrada said that he is also willing to debate with the two.

“I never refuse a challenge,” Estrada said in an interview during his campaign sortie in Nueva Ecija.

Estrada said he is prepared to spell his plans and program of government in any debate.(AH/Sunnex)