MANILA -- Survey front-runners Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Nacionalista Party bet Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar are slugging it out to be the biggest media spender in the 2010 elections.

Based on results presented by poll watchdog Libertas on Saturday, Villar leads the pack by spending P215 million from February 9 to March 18, followed by Aquino with P172 million, deposed President Joseph Estrada with P103 million, Senator Richard Gordon with P69 million, tele-evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva with P1.1 million, and administration bet Gilbert Teodoro with P330,000.

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Independent candidates Senator Jamby Madrigal, Nicanor Perlas and Ang Kapatiran bet JC de los Reyes have not yet spent a single centavo on commercials.

Requirement

The Omnibus Election Code requires a presidential candidate to spend only P10 per voter or around P500 million. Records from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said there are around 50 million voters this May.

The spending cap refers to all the expenses incurred during the 90-day campaign (transportation and media expenses, among others) and candidates are required to furnish Comelec a copy.

Lawyer Roberto Cadiz, executive director of Libertas, said the figures collated from AGB Nielsen Media Research excluded the 30 percent discount given to candidates in getting commercial spots.

“That’s why we really want to see the broadcast contracts so that we can verify the figures, especially the discounts given to them as a result of marketing package, among others,” he said.

Cadiz added that the amount of ad spending was based on the published rate cards of the media outfits being monitored.

Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said a 30-second commercial spot on primetime hours costs between P430,000 and P500,000.

Stations

Cadiz said most of the ad spots were on broadcast giants ABS-CBN Channel 2 and GMA 7 where both Villar and Aquino have almost consumed the 120-minute airtime limit per television station for the entire campaign.

Local candidates are limited to an hour of television airtime and an hour and a half of radio airtime.

“Actually all of these are monitored by Nielsen but the report said around 95 percent of the ads is placed on GMA and ABS-CBN,” Cadiz said in radio interview.

The following are the number of minutes used up by Villar and Aquino:

1. Senator Manny Villar — 108.25 minutes (ABS-CBN), 113.25 minutes (GMA)

2. Senator Noynoy Aquino — 106 minutes (ABS-CBN), 97.5 minutes (GMA)

Cadiz said Villanueva has more exposures on QTV-11 than the other stations.

Villanueva has a stake on QTV, which is a subsidiary of GMA 7.

Since November, Cadiz said Nielsen found out that Villar has already spent P1.19 billion for ads, while Teodoro was a far second with P474 million.

The official campaign period for national candidates kicked off on February 9 and will end on May 8. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)