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THE PHILIPPINE PRESS, widely held to be the freest and most rambunctious in Southeast Asia, has no reason to boast and gloat as journalists across the globe observe World Press Freedom Day today.

THIS presidential campaign is turning out to be the most expensive yet in Philippine political history, but it is also a story of two extremes – profligacy and penny-pinching on political advertisements by the candidates. In just the two months since the official campaign period began last February 9, six candidates for president racked up a daily average ad spending total of P10.5 million, or almost P633 million in 60 days.

IT’S A disconcerting paradox to say the least: In their avowed desire to serve in the highest office of the land, the top two candidates for president – Senator Manuel B. Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party and Senator Benigno S. Aquino III of the Liberal Party – are now being packaged and sold in the same way profit-driven firms market shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, diaper, infant formula, noodles, drugs for colds and diarrhea, mobile phone cards, beer, and whiskey.

WHAT regulations? The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may be keeping tab on political ads in the broadcast and print media, but so far it has refrained from issuing guidelines on online campaigning. This has helped lead to a digital free-for-all among candidates in the upcoming polls who have made the so-called New Media yet another battleground for votes.

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