Press Release
January 10, 2016


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, the leading advocate for an anti-premature campaigning law, urged voters to treat as red flags for corruption the hundreds of billions presidential candidates are spending for ads even before the campaign period.

"The question we must ask is this: How will these politicians recover the scandalous amounts they spend for their campaign? The simple answer is that they will steal from public funds, or will at least be tempted to do so. An alternative would be to give favors to rich contributors, to the detriment of public interest," Santiago said.

The senator was responding to reports that four of her rivals in the 2016 presidential elections spent a total of P2.3 billion for television ads from January to December 2015. Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas was the top spender, shelling out P774 million, followed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, P695 million; Sen. Grace Poe, P694 million, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, P129 million.

Santiago said almost all candidates have already spent beyond the expected limit for campaign expenses. By Commission on Elections (Comelec) standards, every presidential candidate may spend only P10 per voter, or a total of P545 million for the projected 54.5 million voters in 2016.

"A president's salary is only P120,000 a month. He or she may thus expect to earn only P8.64 million for the six years that he or she is in office. These big spenders therefore cannot say that they will earn their money back if elected," she said.

"Of course they can say they are not spending their own money, and that their campaign is fuelled by contributions. Who are their contributors? What kind of favors will they ask from the president whose candidacy they bankrolled?" Santiago asked.

The senator explained that while the Supreme Court ruling on the 2009 case of Peñera v. Comelec enables politicians to campaign outside the identified period, excessive ad spending contradicts the constitutional principle that "a public office is a public trust."

"The provision of the Constitution is our guide: They are campaigning to occupy an office, which is a public trust. It might not express a strict legality but a matter of moral conduct on the part of the public officials," Santiago said.

Santiago, the only presidential candidate who has yet to release political ads, said she will call for a Senate probe on the ad splurge, which she said adds a sense of urgency for her colleagues to finally consider her proposed Anti-Premature Campaigning Act and the related CIRPO Act.

Under the Anti-Premature Campaigning Act (Senate Bill No. 2445), a person would be considered a candidate as soon as he or she files a certificate of candidacy. The bill seeks to prohibit candidates from conducting election-related activities before the campaign period.

Santiago's CIRPO Act (Senate Bill No. 185), meanwhile, seeks to require politicians who intend to run for public office to file certificates of intention to run for public office (CIRPO), allowing the Comelec to monitor their election-related activities and expenses even before they file certificates of candidacy.

The two bills intend to reject the Peñera doctrine, which, according to Santiago, allows candidates to work around campaign spending limits imposed by the Comelec during the campaign period.

"By sitting on my bill against premature campaigning, my colleagues in the Senate have missed an opportunity to address a problem before it manifested itself. Now that the problem is staring them in the face, maybe they can be convinced to act," Santiago said.

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