Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Wednesday called on her rivals in the presidential race to undergo lifestyle checks as she claimed that they are spending “scandalous” amounts of money in their political advertisements.
Santiago, who is running under the People’s Reform Party, noted that the huge amount of money being spent by other presidential candidates should prompt graft and corruption investigations.
The senator, the author of the proposed Anti-Premature Campaigning Law, questioned how other presidential aspirants can afford to spend way beyond the wealth declared in their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for their campaign.
“They spent at least five times the net worth they have declared for ads. One candidate even spent 17 times more than his net worth. Where did they get the money? If the public is to speculate, they would think that these candidates have either stolen from public funds or peddled their influence,” Santiago said.
According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), four of the five presidential candidates have collectively spent some P3.2 billion in ads from January 2015 to January 2016.
A PCIJ report also showed gaps between the candidates’ ad spending and their declared wealth.
Vice President Jejomar Binay was allegedly the top spender, having placed P1.05 billion worth of ads.
He was followed by Sen. Grace Poe, who reportedly spent P1.016 billion on ads despite a net worth of only P89.5 million; Liberal Party bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd who spent P969 million despite a net worth of only P202 million; and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who shelled out P146 million despite a net worth of only P21.97 million.
“Almost all of these candidates are incumbent public officials, and have access to government funds. They are also prohibited by law from receiving gifts if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive,” Santiago said.
The senator added that although candidates are allowed to accept campaign contributions, they are obliged to reveal their donors and to pay for taxes for contributions received outside of the campaign period.
“The people deserve to know who bankroll the campaigns of elective officials so that when a campaign contributor enjoys benefits to the detriment of the public under the official’s watch, the people would know who to hold accountable,” she said.