A recent decision of the Supreme Court increasing the allowable maximum airtime for national candidates may put moneyed candidates and parties in an advantageous position but it could also expose them to overspending that may lead to their disqualification.
Acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd raised this point during plenary deliberations on the proposed 2015 budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as he reminded the need for the poll body to strictly monitor campaign spending of all candidates in the 2016 national and local polls.
According to Sotto, the decision of the High Tribunal to set the maximum airtime for national candidates to 120 minutes per television station and 180 minutes per radio station could be a welcome development for wealthy candidates who have more money to buy airtime.
“But they may be forgetting something because even if they are allowed to have more time to air their campaign ads, the law setting the allowable amount a candidate could spend for every voter still exists,” he said.
This means that even if a candidate has enough funds to buy as much airtime as he wants, he is not allowed to go beyond the amount set by law.
Sotto was referring to Republic Act (RA) 7166 or the synchronized national and local election law particularly the provision that sets authorized expenses of candidates and political parties.
Under Section 13 of RA 7166, candidates running for President and Vice President are only allowed to spend P10.00 per voter and e P3.00 per voter for other candidates.
Political parties and independent candidates on the other hand are only allowed to spend P5.00 per voter.
This means that candidates for President and Vice President can only spend around P560 million during the entire campaign period for the 2016 elections based on the total number of registered voter, which is around 56 million.
Sotto said with the ruling of Supreme Court, a national candidate can now spend as much as P120 million per television station given the limit of 120 minutes of airtime.
He explained that a 120-minute airtime translates to a total of 240 spots at 30 seconds per spot.
Usually, television stations charge candidates between P300,000 and P500,000 per spot depending on the time of airing of the ad..
If a presidential candidate will use all the airtime allowed by the SC, he will be spending a maximum of P120 million on a single TV ad that is already 21 percent of a candidate’s campaign spending limit.
Those who are running for senator and other positions have a smaller campaign spending limit of P168 million.
This means that even if a senatorial candidate has the money to buy all his available television airtime, it will not be wise to do so because of the danger of overspending.
“So, the Comelec should also focus on the monitoring of campaign spending of candidates in 2016 because there is a big chance that candidates may exceed the allowable amount set by law,” Sotto said.
Last May, the Comelec ordered the disqualification of Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon Ejercito for exceeding the allowable campaign spending during the 2013 elections.
Ejercito is only allowed to spend P4.5 million for his entire campaign since Laguna province only has a total of 1,525,522 registered voters.
But based on records obtained by the poll body, the governor spent around P23.5 million for his campaign.