Last of Three Parts
CAN we trust them with the public purse?
At the rate they are splurging billions of pesos on political ads, with nothing or little to show in their asset records as their own spending capacity, the candidates for president and vice president in the May 2016 elections are possibly the least smart amongst us when it comes to math and money.
In truth, if they have been dipping into their pockets for pesos for their ads, nearly all of them would now be in grave deficit spending status. Or even in the throes of bankruptcy.
Altogether, four of the five seeking the presidency, six seeking the vice presidency, 22 aspiring to be senators, and few dozen local and party-list hopefuls have acquired a record P6.69 billion worth of pre-campaign political ads, mostly on television, and some on radio and the newspapers.
Three wannabe presidents – Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II of the Liberal Party (LP), Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), and Grace Poe of the Galing at Puso (GP) slate — had even made it to the Billion-Peso Club of ad spenders ahead of the official 90-day campaign period that started on Feb. 9, 2016.
According to Nielsen Media’s monitoring reports, as of Jan. 31, 2016 and by the rate card of media agencies, the political ads featuring these three as “advertiser” and “product” had reached the billionth mark: P1,050,065,096 for Binay, P1,016,414,123 for Poe; and P969,173,267 for Roxas.
And while he decided to run only in December 2016, a fourth candidate for president, Rodrigo Duterte of the PDP-Laban Party, had also recorded a bill of P146,351,131 for his pre-campaign ads.
Six wannabe vice presidents, meanwhile, have incurred similarly significant expenses for their solo ads:
- P419,002,456 for Duterte’s official running mate Alan Peter Cayetano;
- P273,856,544 for LP’s Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo;
- P252,503,856 for Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.;
- P29,673,341 for UNA’s Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan II;
- P8,953,380 for Antonio Trillanes IV; and
- P2,776,000 for GP’s Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero.
Caps in law, net worth
Even then, they are probably poised to splurge millions of pesos more to get elected. Election laws allow a candidate for national office to spend during the official campaign period up to P10 per voter, or a maximum of P540 million for the nation’s 54.3 million registered voters, to cover all his or her allowable expenses.
But the 2014 statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of the candidates show no evidence that any of them can finance multi-million-peso campaigns, let alone billion-peso ones. Nearly all of them have little to modest net worth and even the more affluent ones would have gone bankrupt by now if they financed their pre-campaign ads on their own.
For the candidates for president, here’s what their 2014 SALN numbers, compared to their pre-campaign ad expenses, reveal:
- Roxas declared a net worth of P202,080,453 and cash on hand/in bank of P24,833,667. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P969,173,267. If he spent his own money, he would be on deficit spending by P767,092,814.
- Binay declared a net worth of P60,250,983 and cash on hand/in bank of P38,843,866. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P1,050,065,096. He would be on deficit spending by P989,804,113.
- Poe declared a net worth of P89,464,819 and cash on hand/in bank of P1,071,406. She incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P1,016,414,123. She would be on deficit spending by P926,949,304.
- Duterte declared a net worth of P21,971,733 and cash on hand/in bank of P13,846,733. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P146,351,131. He would be on deficit spending by P124,379,398.
Four of the six candidates for vice president declared much less in net worth, and Marcos, a little more. All together though, they all would be on the path to penury, going by their own expensive ad buys:
- Robredo declared a net worth of P8,032,124 and cash on hand/in bank of P8,049,124. She incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P273,856,544. She would be on deficit spending by P265,824,420.
- Honasan declared a net worth of P21,225,616 and cash on hand/in bank of P11,058,816. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P29,673,341. He would be on deficit spending by P8,447,625.
- Marcos declared a net worth of P200,598,008 and cash on hand/in bank of P8,000,000. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P252,503,856. He would be on deficit spending by P51,905,848.
- Cayetano declared a net worth of P23,314,540 and cash on hand/in bank of P8,500,000. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P419,002,456. He would be on deficit spending by P395,687,916.
- Trillanes declared a net worth of P5,549,000 and cash on hand/in bank of P2,300,000. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P8,953,380. He would on deficit spending by P3,404,380.
By these metrics, only two — Escudero and People’s Reform Party candidate for president Miriam Defensor Santiago — remain in surplus spending status. Escudero had acquired, by Nielsen Media’s data as of Jan. 31, 2016, too few ads; Santiago had not run any pre-campaign ads at all.
Escudero in 2014 declared a net worth of P6,049,082 and cash on hand/in bank of P3,237,947. He incurred pre-campaign ad expenses of P2,776,000. Assuming he used his personal funds, he would be on surplus spending by P3,273,082.
Santiago, meanwhile, declared a net worth of P73,033,539 and cash on hand/in bank of P48,480,291 in her SALN for 2014.— With additional research and reporting by Vino Lucero, Davinci S. Maru, and Earl G. Parreño, PCIJ, August 2019