Campaign season for national candidates has officially started on Feb. 12. We say “official” because some sort of campaigning, also known as “premature campaign” or “pre-campaign,” has begun months ago. As Commission on Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James Jimenez told ANC, materials that come out before the campaign period are automatically considered pre-campaign paraphernalia—usually, these materials don’t contain the word “vote” and the position the candidate is running for yet. However, he also clarified that these don’t violate any law.
So, there’s that. But did you know it costs a lot of money to advertise? In 2013, GMA and ABS-CBN earned about P2 billion just because of political ads. A 30-second ad spot, as Senator Tito Sotto mentioned in an Inquirer article, costs P500,000. That was in 2013, so just imagine how much the rates have increased.
In a report dated Feb. 13, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) released data on how much senatorial candidates have spent on pre-campaign ads along with their declared net worth. The data PCIJ culled from Nielsen Media sums up how much 18 out of 61 candidates have spent on on-ground, print, radio, and TV ads from January 2018 to January 2019. Their combined ad spending has reached P2.4 billion. Again, this is just for pre-campaign ads. “In fact, those with the lowest net worth, the biggest liabilities, and the smallest cash on hand are, as of their latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), among the biggest spenders on pre-campaign ads.” Malou Mangahas points out in the PCIJ report.
— PCIJ (@PCIJdotOrg) February 13, 2019
While Bong Go declared the lowest net worth at P12,854,612, he spent the highest on ads at P422,498,647 followed by Imee Marcos at P413,160,423.
When it comes to political parties, the Duterte-endorsed Hugpong ng Pagbabago-Partido Demokratikong Pilipino (HNP-PDP-LABAN) spent P1.32 billion from 2018 until last month. The Liberal Party (LP), on the other hand, spent P752,301,442 in January 2019 alone with 107 ad spots on GMA and ABS-CBN. Meanwhile, independent candidates have collectively spent P216,941,524. Wow, that is a lot of money.
The PCIJ has also noticed that pre-campaign ads peaked in December 2018.
Now that campaign period has started, here’s what you need to know: The Comelec only allows each candidate to spend P3 (for candidates under a political party) and P5 (for candidates without support from any political party) “for every voter currently registered in the constituency where the candidate filed [their] certificate of candidacy.”
So maybe what Jose Rizal said years ago is still true. We are still the change this country needs. So please, please vote wisely.
Read the full report by the PCIJ here.
Art by Aira Ydette