Our latest report reveals that only 308 donors – out of 50.7 million registered voters – bankrolled the campaign for the presidency of the top seven candidates and three major political parties.

But the figure slides down to a pithy 48, if only those who contributed P10 million and more are counted.

This report by PCIJ fellow Roel R. Landingin, senior correspondent of The Financial Times of London, kickstarts a series of stories about the findings of the PCIJ’s audit of the Statement of Electoral Contributions and Expenditures (SECEs) that the top candidates for president and vice president and the political parties had filed with the Commission on Elections as of the June 25, 2010 deadline.

Big-money operations that they are, elections afford the candidates a chance to court all sorts of donors — big, small, open, and secret. But in Philippine political culture, any discussion of money remains taboo.

For this, apparently a seminal report on donors and candidates, we interviewed fund-raisers and business leaders, researched on the corporate assets of the big donors, and compared the lists of donors submitted to the Comelec with the registers of the most affluent Filipinos, including the top taxpayers’ list of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, as of 2008.

Our interviewees agree on quite a number of things: the lists of donors submitted to the Comelec are grossly understated and conceal the identities of other bigger donors. But whether motives good or bad drive donors to shell out millions of pesos to candidates is a debatable matter.

Some say some donors are true believers in what their candidates stand for.

Still others say that election campaigns are funded in the manner and mold of financing for risky business start-ups. Money comes mostly from personal funds, family members, and friends rather than a wide network of supporters of the political party, organization, or movement.

In business, these private-equity sources of funding are ideal for ventures with low success rates but high pay-offs that are usually shunned by banks and the capital markets.You might say that yet again, the May 2010 elections rolled out well, thanks to the generosity of a mixed but small circle of true believers and “political venture capitalists.”

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