“TRUTH in advertising” is the supposed motto of the country’s group of advertisers, although not all of its members follow it.

It’s difficult to be truthful when one is desperate to sell a product.

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That should be more so when one is selling a candidate in an election that is held in a country with a faulty electoral system like the Philippines.

Can there be truth in political advertising?

That’s one good question to ask not only considering that we are smack into the Holy Week but also amid the controversy spawned by Manny Villar’s campaign spots.

Not ‘dirt poor’

As we all know, the campaign tack of Villar, standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party, is that he is “galing sa mahirap” and thus can connect with them (the masa) if ever he becomes president.

In one melodramatic political ad, Villar recalled his “dirt poor” beginnings and of how poverty, or the lack of money to pay hospital bills, was the reason his brother died.

His political rival and critics eventually showed documentary proof that Villar, as a child, lived in a house that belonged to a middle class family and that his brother, who was sick with leukemia, was actually treated in a high-end hospital.

Others, too

But Villar is not the only presidential bet who made spurious claims in his political ads or embellished these with half truths or lies.

Indeed, critics also point to the tendency of the political ads of Liberal Party’s Noynoy Aquino to turn melodramatic with the use of images of his dead parents.

One can also make a case for the “galing at talino” claim of the administration party’s Gibo Teodoro, something that nobody bothered to scrutinize probably because he has not made headway in the surveys on voters’ presidential preference.

And what about former president Erap Estrada’s insistence in one of his political ads that his aborted rule was corruption free, his having been ousted from power and convicted of plunder notwithstanding?

Wishful call

The controversy over Villar’s political ads has actually prompted some sectors to call on those concerned to come up with mechanisms to screen candidates’ political ads for truthfulness.

That is better said than done, though, and is comparable to asking the candidates to cleanse themselves of their political sins this Holy Week and become decent electoral campaigners after the cleansing process.