SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Sunday her rivals in this year’s presidential elections would steal from public funds or be tempted to do so to recoup the millions of pesos they would have spent on advertisements.
She also said it was likely that her opponents would give favors to their rich supporters to the detriment of the public.
Santiago was reacting to reports that Manuel Roxas II, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had spent a total of P2.3 billion on television commercials from January to December 2015.
Roxas, the Liberal Party’s standard bearer, was the top spender, shelling out P774 million, followed by Binay (P695 million), Poe (P694 million) and Duterte (P129 million).
Santiago, who is running under the People’s Reform Party, said the presidential candidates’ election spending should be treated as “red flags” for corruption.
“The question we must ask is this: How will these politicians recover the scandalous amounts they spend for their campaign?” Santiago said.
She said almost all the candidates had already spent beyond the limit for campaign expenses. By Commission on Elections 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,” Santiago said.
“Of course, they can say they are not spending their own money, and that their campaign is being fueled by contributions. Who are their contributors? What kind of favors will they ask from the president whose candidacy they bankrolled?”
Santiago said that while the Supreme Court ruling on the 2009 case of Peñera v. Comelec allowed politicians to campaign outside the identified period, excessive ad spending contradicted 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. Macon Ramos-Araneta
Santiago, the only presidential candidate who has yet to release political ads, said she would call for a Senate probe on the candidates’ ad expenditures.
Her Senate Bill 185 seeks to require politicians who intend to run for public office to file certificates of intention to run for public office, which would allow the Comelec to monitor their election-related activities and expenses even before they file certificates of candidacy.