Party-list ads cost P24M, use Villar ‘basura’

Party-list ads cost P24M, use Villar ‘basura’
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Where did the money come from?

A party-list group claiming to represent poor children has been able to afford television ad placements costing about P24 million with the country’s biggest network, according to an election consortium monitoring campaign spending.

That the party-list group “mimicked” a popular political advertisement of a presidential candidate has raised the eyebrows of a member of the consortium.

Akap Bata appeared to be an “affluent party-list” group because it was able to afford an advertising contract worth P23.6 million with ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., said Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

“What we are curious about is the spending capacity of Akap Bata as well as its use of the ‘Dagat-ng-Basura’ (Sea-of-Trash) advertisement of Sen. Manuel Villar … Why is it mimicking the ads of someone running for president?” Mangahas said at a press conference Wednesday.

Akap Bata “has signed three advertising contracts for 100 ad spots worth P23.6 million with ABS-CBN 2 alone and cover the periods March 5 to 13, March 14 to 20, and March 21 to 27,” said a PCIJ report to Pera’t Pulitika.

Another party-list group, A-Teacher, has a contract with the same network “for a more modest P777,815 worth of ads,” the PCIJ said. A-Teacher represents teachers and other school personnel.

The PCIJ is part of the Pera’t Pulitika Network, a consortium of nongovernment organizations monitoring candidates’ campaign spending.

Subliminal endorsement

Mangahas raised two questions about Akap Bata’s Dagat-ng-Basura ad. Is it subliminally endorsing Villar and thus circumvents the allotted airtime for each candidate? Is the party-list a marginalized group?

Mangahas pointed out that Akap Bata could afford to spend so much on TV ads even if it was representing a marginalized sector.

“It’s very ingenious!” Mangahas said of the group’s use of Villar’s ad that has had a viral effect on the public.

Practically the same

Akap Bata’s political ad is practically the same as Villar’s “Dagat ng Basura” ad with some minor changes, including the voice over of children’s wishes such as having a home, being able to go to school, and for a parent working overseas to come home.

For the unsuspecting viewer, the ad would seem another endorsement of Villar.

Dr. Joy Alcantara

Sought for comment, Akap Bata first nominee, Dr. Joy Alcantara, made no apologies in saying that her group used Villar’s ads because of its popularity.

She said Akap Bata, which started as a nongovernment organization eight years ago, asked for permission from the Villar camp to use the ad and paid the royalties to DM9, the advertising agency that made the Villar ad and owns the rights to it.

“The ad of Villar was very popular and we are a neophyte group. We want an ad that would make us popular right away. So we asked [the Villar camp] if we can use the ad,” Alcantara told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

She said that before the group adopted Villar’s ad, Akap Bata had checked his “track record” on legislation for children.

Alcantara said Villar had filed 26 bills addressing the concerns of children.

Same advocacy

“We don’t have a political alliance with [Sen. Villar] but we share the same advocacy for children,” she said.

As for Akap Bata’s funding, the group has “many donors,” Alcantara said. She said its ad contract with ABS-CBN was “much lower than the P23 million reported by Pera’t Pulitika.

Senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla, Villar’s spokesperson, said in a text message that “as far as we know, the Akap Bata party-list group is supporting MBV’s (Villar’s initials) candidacy.”

“We concur with what they said and that they paid for the rights and airtime. They are not receiving any logistical support from us,” Remulla said.

Biggest spender

Villar, the billionaire presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party, remains the biggest spender for political advertisements on television, radio and print since the start of the official campaign period.

Not far behind is Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, according to Pera’t Pulitika’s campaign spending monitoring of the first month of the campaign.

Villar’s total advertising value in the trimedia from Feb. 9 to March 15 reached P195.1 million.

Aquino, standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, spent P154.6 million while deposed President Joseph Estrada shelled out P103.2 million, a huge jump from his modest expenditure three months before the start of the campaign period.

The figures were not yet the discounted amounts for ad placements given by networks and the 30-percent, 20-percent and 10-percent discounts on TV, radio and print ads allowed by law.

With the discounts, Villar’s ads may have cost him P106 million; Aquino, P83.3 million; and Estrada, P72.6 million for the first month of the campaign alone, the PCIJ said in a report for Pera’t Pulitika.

Sen. Richard Gordon, Bagumbayan standard-bearer, was fourth with a discounted total of P48.8 million, which apparently went to his TV ad placements.

Based on Nielsen Media

The consortium and the PCIJ obtained their data from the media monitoring agency Nielsen Media.

The PCIJ noted that the candidates’ ad spending from Feb. 9 to March 8 was “relatively tempered” compared to the three months before the official campaign period.

“Even Villar pulled back his ad expenses by about 26.7 percent, compared to his average ad spending bills three months before the campaign period started,” the PCIJ said.

Nielsen noted that Villar had spent on some P1 billion worth of ads from November 2009 to January 2010, but with the discounts his bill may have been cut by half, the PCIJ added.

The report noted that Aquino, Estrada and Eduardo Villanueva had increased their ad spending at the start of the campaign period.

Shelling out P715,149 for his ads, Villanueva “outspent” administration candidate Gilberto Teodoro who posted a total discounted ad expense of just P266,092 from Feb. 9 to March 8.

Teodoro spending down

The PCIJ described it as a “drastic dive” from the P115 million Teodoro spent last January alone. Teodoro was second to Villar in ad spending three months before the campaign period, shelling out P184.4 million.

Pera’t Pulitika also pointed out that Villar, Aquino and Estrada had already used up nearly half of their allotted ad airtime on the country’s two biggest TV networks with still more than a month and a half to go before Election Day.

The Fair Election Practices Act allows each candidate to have a maximum airtime of 120 minutes for TV ads per station during the official campaign period.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.