MANILA, Philippines—Administration senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros called Saturday for televised debates among senatorial candidates to expose to the public the politicians who merely bank on name recall because their family names are well-known instead of discussing what they have to offer the electorate.
Hontiveros, a former House member of the party-list Akbayan, called on the Commission on Elections to offer incentives so television networks would hold debates among the candidates.
Re-electionist Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has also called on the Comelec to help level the playing field for less known and less moneyed senatorial hopefuls by using part of its budget to buy television and radio air time as well as newspaper space for such candidates.
“What’s necessary is for Comelec to help show that an election is fundamentally a clash of ideas and platforms, not of personalities,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
Hontiveros, who placed 13th in the 2010 elections but only 18th in the latest senatorial survey by Pulse Asia, suggested that Comelec hold regular senatorial fora or offer tax breaks to networks in exchange for televised debates.
“Incentives such as tax breaks could be given to TV networks to encourage them to host more debates among senatorial candidates. These would sharpen the differences between candidates along programs and platforms, and would aid voters in choosing their bets,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said each candidate should be given a chance to show what he or she can bring to the table.
“It is not just fraud or violence that undermines an election. The lack of informed choice can also cripple the crucial role that elections play in a democracy, and that happens when gimmickry trumps real debates,” Hontiveros said.
“We’ve known that Philippine politics is dominated by gimmickry. Some might find this entertaining, but we hope that come May 2013, the result of the election is a Senate that will truly represent the people,” she added.
“For those who cannot raise funds by themselves, they should have an equal access to media. But how do we do that? The Comelec has P224 million budget for their information campaign. And in their own circular, they said that they can buy airtime,” Cayetano said at a news conference on Friday.
“So my suggestion to the Comelec is that instead of whining and complaining about some politicians having more money for commercials, I will have no objections if they buy air time and put the lesser known candidates and give them time on primetime,” he added.
Cayetano said one cannot take airtime and not pay because it’s private property. “But the Comelec does have P224 million,” Cayetano said.
“If they use this efficiently, they can buy radio time, they can buy newspaper space, they can buy TV spots for the lesser known national and local candidates to be able to espouse their advocacies, platforms and programs,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano also asked that the Comelec get the giant telecommunications firms to agree on a system of transferring funds to the candidates through the mobile phones of their millions of subscribers.
“You want to get rid of bad politicians, then get rid of those who are funded by smugglers, drug lords, those who are funded by illegal gambling, those who are being funded by the bureaucracy by those who try to put people to the regulatory offices and help them cut corners in business,” Cayetano said.
“I do believe that businessmen want a level-playing field. I do believe that businessmen want to do good. But to do that, we need good politicians. We need good public servants. And we have to have a way of funding them through the people,” Cayetano added.
Senatorial candidate Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, who admitted having problems raising funds for his television ads, has taken to selling teddy bears.
The blue stuffed toys carry a heart with the words “Teddy Cares” and, thus, have been called Teddy Cares Bears.
Casiño and his campaigners in the Makabayan coalition are selling the cuddly toys at P200 each. He said the bears are locally made by a small garments manufacturer, in keeping with Casiño’s advocacy for local manufacturing.
“Our biggest challenge is raising millions for TV and radio ads. This is one of the toughest hurdles an alternative candidate has to overcome so that he can reach millions of voters,” Casiño said.