PH polls still billionaires’ playground
MANILA, Philippines — The general elections in 2022 will remain the playground of billionaires, thanks to a bill raising five-fold the amount that may be spent in a campaign by presidential candidates, an opposition lawmaker warned on Monday.
In opposing the passage of House Bill No. 6095, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the electoral system would continue to favor only the moneyed elite, while ordinary Filipinos would have no fighting chance to take elective posts in the future.
By a 213-6 vote, with one abstention, the House approved on third reading the bill allowing candidates for president, vice president and senator to spend as much as P50 per voter, five times higher than the current rate, and P30 per voter for local candidates, 10 times the current rate.
Every six years, the allowable campaign expenditure may be adjusted based on the inflation rate and the consumer price index, according to the bill.
“This measure distorts the already skewed election playing field, to the benefit of rich and powerful political families who have the means to max out their campaign expenses, while eligible ordinary Filipinos had to make do with limited exposure,” Brosas said in her speech.
P3.1B in 2022 polls
With 62 million voters as of May 2019, that means a top national candidate may spend at least P3.1 billion in the 2022 polls, while a local one can spend P1.86 billion.
The figures are almost certain to go up since the number of registered voters will only rise with the population.
Proponents of the bill had sought the increase to put spending limits at “more realistic levels,” and thus “encourage candidates to declare their true and actual campaign expenses as required by law.”
It’s long known that billions of pesos are spent for the campaigns of top candidates, although most would declare only a fraction of what they actually spent.
A study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) found that 19 senatorial candidates spent a combined P2.4 billion in pre-campaign ads in 2018, way before the May 2019 polls.
Level playing field
PCIJ said it determined the figure using the rate card of media agencies monitored by Nielsen Media.
Brosas argued that instead of raising campaign spending limits, the government should work toward fairer mechanisms.
“In truth, there must be tighter rein on campaign election spending to make electoral campaigns more democratic. We need to ensure a level playing field for either big names or small names,” she said.
“It’s true that money does not automatically make a candidate win an election. But in the history of elections in the Philippines, it’s clear that machinery is key and the recourse of candidates in order to be elected,” Brosas said.
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