REPUBLIC Act 7166 limits campaign spending for a presidential and vice presidential bet to only P10 for every registered voter.

With 50 million registered voters, this means that a presidential candidate can spend only about P500 million during the 90-day official campaign period, including advertisements in media and paraphernalia for his/her entire campaign, or face disqualification.

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Political parties are allowed to spend an additional P5 per registered voter, for all its candidates and not necessarily for its presidential candidate alone.

The more politically savvy and moneyed candidates have run their commercials before the 90-day campaign period could start last February 9, thus being able to have their free time of sorts, san the prohibition from the Commission on Elections.

Yet, in the first month (February 9 to March 8, 2010) of the election campaign, the top three candidates for the president have already used up half of the television airtime limit or 120 minutes per station, and continue to spend millions of pesos on the airwaves.

Nielsen Media indicate a relatively tempered ad-spending among the candidates, compared to the three months prior to the start of the campaign period. From February 9 to March 8, 2010, Nacionalista Party standard bearer Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar had racked up ads worth P150 million or about 34 percent of the P442 million total ad value posted by the six candidates for president who placed ads on TV, radio, and print.

But at the rate they are spending on political ads, Villar and two other candidates –- Benigno S. Aquino III of the Liberal Party and Joseph Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino –- have only about 40 minutes of political ads left in the top two television networks, ABS-CBN 2 and GMA 7.

The Commission on Elections has required media agencies to submit broadcast logs, political advertising contracts and certificates of performance to monitor the candidates’ advertisement spending. The figures provided by Nielsen Media exclude data from government run televisions stations which have yet to submit their report.

Some presidential candidates have banked on showbiz personalities to help in their campaign as “volunteers.” Incidentally, elections laws state that even the rendering of free services must be quantified and computed as part of a candidate’s campaign expense.

How truthful these candidates would be in being transparent with their election expense, as well as their sources of funds would only speak well of their integrity and respect to their constituency. Once elected, this could factor in their set of priorities. Come to think of it, when politicians run through the support of various groups with their own agenda, one could only surmise what is in store ahead for all of us. Email comments to roledan@gmail.com