FOR a job that pays out a salary of just P120,000 a month, Liberal Party (LP) presidential bet Mar Roxas certainly isn’t shy about spending oodles of money in the race to Malacañang. His no-expense-spared strategy to winning the 2016 presidential derby shows that he is not above buying his way to the Palace.
That is what worries many voters who are understandably skeptical of his “daang matuwid” narrative. Everyone knows Roxas and his generous benefactors will have to recoup their expenses somehow. And if he were to hold the most powerful post in the country, that wouldn’t be so hard. There are a billion ways to recover their “investment” and more.
Roxas’ political advertisements have littered primetime television even before the start of the official campaign period. According to an AC Nielsen research, he already spent a massive P774 million last year for his TV, radio and newspaper ads. This amount does not include the costs of using several private jets for Roxas’ provincial sorties.
Stung by allegations that the expenses for these private jets are being bankrolled by Roxas’ billionaire friends who have allegedly profited from their strong ties to the Palace, the LP’s presidential bet insists he paid out of pocket for using the planes. Yeah, sure.
Anyway, we asked our high flying friends how much it costs to rent a private jet. We’re told that a private jet (as against a turboprop [i.e. propeller] plane) can easily cost as much as P125,000 per hour, excluding operating charges like take-off and landing fees and waiting time fees which can add up another P10,000 per hour. And this is for a small 4-passenger Cessna jet aircraft. The bigger, more modern private jets can set you back twice as much.
With his advertisements and air transport costs alone, it’s clear that Roxas had already surpassed the maximum spending limit of P545-million (or P10 multiplied by 54.5-million voters) for the entire 3-month campaign period from February 9, 2016 to May 7, 2016, even before the campaign officially started.
But we cannot blame Roxas for pouring in billions into the campaign. He really doesn’t have a choice, especially when his entire political platform rests on perpetuating the myth that is “daang matuwid.”
The problem with Roxas’ “daang matuwid” rhetoric is that every campaign pledge he makes not only highlights and validates the shortcomings of the very same “daang matuwid” administration he wants to continue, it is also an admission of what he should have done but failed to do during the past six years.
For instance, Roxas vowed to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill if he is elected president, even promising to personally certify it as urgent priority measure of his administration. But with the LP in power since 2010, he had the means and the clout to push for the passage of this long-delayed anti-corruption measure. Instead, he defended the Aquino administration’s inaction on the FOI bill, claiming there were legitimate issues that needed to be clarified.
We also noticed that Roxas also isn’t shy about giving away billions, especially when it doesn’t come from his own pocket.
Speaking before the League of Municipalities and the Liga ng mga Barangay, Roxas promised to give local officials access to P100 billion in taxpayer money – the equivalent of P1,000 pesos for each of the 100 million Filipinos – supposedly to give local government units (LGUs) and barangays a wider participation in choosing the projects to be funded in the national budget supposedly to fund barangay services and projects.
Like the discredited Development Acceleration Program (DAP), the Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB) program is another brainchild of Budget Secretary Butch Abad. As with the DAP, the beneficiaries of the so-called “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process” – the catchy name given to BUB in the budget item – have been limited to a chosen few.
The traditional bailiwicks of President Aquino and Roxas, such as Regions III (Central Luzon), was given a total of P1.6 billion in BUB projects in 2015, and P1.9 billion in 2015. This is also the case for Region VI (Panay), which received a total of P1.8 billion worth of BUB projects last year, and P2.1 billion this year. Vote-rich Region VII, which includes Cebu, got the largest chunk of the BUB funding, getting a total of P1.9 billion in BUB funds, which will swell to P2.3 billion in 2016 – the highest allocation among all regions.
This BUB funding is on top of the P64-billion allocated for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which Roxas has vowed to continue and even expand. This explains why critics have described these schemes as legalized vote-buying.
Unfortunately for Roxas, his nearly billion-peso (and counting) campaign has not significantly improved his poll numbers. In fact, it even went south recently.
In the pre-election survey of Business World-Social Weather Station (BW-SWS) released last week, the United Nationalist Alliance’s standard bearer Vice President Jojo Binay retained the top spot. Roxas, on the other hand, fell to fourth place, getting the nod of only 18 percent of the respondents from 21 percent in January.
Alas, as the old adage goes, money can’t buy everything.