Roberto Cadiz

Villar, Aquino exceed ad airtime limit, says private watchdog

Villar, Aquino exceed ad airtime limit, says private watchdog
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) The two leading presidential candidates in the May 2010 elections have already exceeded the 120-minute air time limit on political advertisements alloted to them in each of the country’s top two television networks, a consortium of non-government organizations monitoring candidates’ campaign spending said Friday.

Based on data provided by AC Nielsen, the Pera at Pulitika Network reported in a press conference that Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar has aired political advertisements with a total of 128.25 minutes over GMA-7 and 122.5 minutes on ABS-CBN.

His strongest rival for the presidency, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party, has 118 minutes of ads aired over GMA-7 and 129 minutes on ABS-CBN.

Deposed President Joseph Estrada has aired 77.50 minutes worth of ads over ABS-CBN and 65 minutes on GMA 7; Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan Party), 52 minutes on ABS-CBN and 43 minutes on GMA-7; former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), 3.50 minutes on ABS-CBN and 4 minutes on GMA 7; and evangelist Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas Movement), 3.50 minutes on ABS-CBN and 1.00 minute on GMA-7.

A candidate for a national position is entitled to 120 minutes of political advertising on each TV network.

Pera at Pulitika executive director, lawyer Roberto Cadiz, said that it was up to the Commission on Elections to prosecute erring candidates.

“We are a monitoring group. Our primary duty is to report to the media the compliance of the candidates and the parties to campaign finance laws. The primary responsibility of prosecuting the ‘violators’ rests with the Comelec,” Cadiz said.

He also said that candidates and political parties were welcome “dispute the data” presented by his group to the media, adding that it was possible there could be discrepancies in the monitoring of Nielsen as happened on one occasion when the media monitoring company corrected data it had uploaded on its website.

In a statement, Villar denied he has exceeded the airtime limit.

“The reports may give the wrong impression in the minds of the public. I’d like to believe that there was inadvertent mistake in the counting of our TV airtime, perhaps by adding the NP TV ads in the count,” Villar said.

Villar’s “Dagat ng Basura” and “Puedeng Mangarap” ads dominated the air time alloted to him, said veteran journalist Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigate Journalism, a Pera at Pulitika Network partner.

“Overall, money seems to be working for Villar, if you go by the way he went up in his ratings and if you correlate it with the billions he has spent creatively or otherwise. We have monitored that among all the candidates, Senator Villar has been the most creative in projecting himself in the media,” Cadiz said.

Pera at Pulitika pointed out earlier that a partylist group for children’s advocacy, Akap Bata, has used Villar’s popular “Dagat ng Basura” TV ad with a few modifications.

“Unless he [Villar] will dispute that Akap Bata’s campaign ads are not similar to [his ad], then we will have an argument. But if you will agree that Akap Bata is very similar to Villar’s political ads then you would have to give it to Senator Villar for being very creative. He is able to project himself as a candidate and spend an additional 60.5 minutes under Akap Bata’s name,” Cadiz said.

Moreover, there are ambiguities in interpreting the law which candidates and political parties appear to have taken advantage of.

Mangahas called these the “smorgasbord ads,” which feature a presidential candidate with his running mate and/or with their senatorial candidates.

“The smorgasbord ads have begun. It’s turning to that and they’re trying really to run around the law so they have additional credits. The law says the political party may spend P5 per registered voter. The assumption is that’s the spending for all the candidates of the political party. But what is happening is they assign the credit to different candidates of the party,” Mangahas said.

However, she pointed out that viewers still see the presidential candidate giving the final statement in the ad.

“He’s the last frame or recall element of the ad. So should this be counted to the senatorial candidates or the presidential candidate… They razzle-dazzle the law so that they (presidential candidates) would still have credits,” Mangahas said.

Cadiz said that Pera at Pulitika would be drafting a letter to the Comelec asking the poll body to “clarify” and issue a ruling on how the monitoring of political ads should really be done.

The importance of monitoring how much the candidates use their air time, or spend for their political advertisements, is to “actually shed light on… the perils of spending too much on elections,” Mangahas said.

“All of the candidates generally would tell us that they aim to lift the poor and they are spokespersons of the poor. But one candidate is spending P4 million a day [in advertisements] and another is spending P3.5 million a day. All together, top candidates are spending P7 million to 10 million a day. You could imagine the amounts of money that could have gone to direct resources,” Mangahas said.

She pointed out that a President receives a monthly salary of P60,000 a month or not more than P3.5 million throughout his six-year term in office.

This raises the question of how they would recover the amount they have spent or on the other hand, what would their fund donors expect in return if the candidate wins, Mangahas said.

“My thought is this is really a crucial peg to promoting good governance. We are highlighting these figures because we think this is really a lot of money spent on vanity and self-promotion of the candidates. I don’t think this is going directly to servicing or improving the lives of the poor in the Philippines,” she said.

'Partial failure of elections can make Speaker Arroyo acting president'

‘Partial failure of elections can make Speaker Arroyo acting president’

Whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada on Tuesday reiterated warnings of a partial failure of elections that could allow President Arroyo to extend her term in Malacañang.

This can happen in a scenario where the local elections are successful, but the poll machines fail to transmit the results for the national seats (See how transmission works), Lozada told Newsbreak on the sidelines of the La Liga Policy institute forum on the credibility of the automated elections.

In the said scenario, only the district congressmen and officials of the provincial, city, and municipal governments will be sworn in. There will be no president, vice-president, 12 new senators, and party-list representatives.

The country’s succession law provides that when there is no sitting president, the Vice-President, Senate President, and the House Speaker will become Acting President, respectively.

On June 30, there will only be 12 senators left. The number includes senators Panfilo Lacson and Antonio Trillanes, who may not be able to attend session immediately. The term of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile would have expired. It means the Senate won’t have the quorum to elect a replacement.

Meanwhile, if all the district congressmen were sworn, they will have the quorum to elect the House Speaker who can become the Acting President.

President Arroyo is running for the 2nd district of Pampanga. Lakas-Kampi officials have been quoted saying they want her to become Speaker in the next Congress.

Lozada has been speaking in forums to push for the Open Election System. He wants to keep the voting and local canvassing manual. Only the transmission of results in the national posts will be automated.

Libertas executive director Roberto Cadiz told Newsbreak that Lozada’s hypothesis could happen “in theory” although it is improbable.

“A lot of things have to simultaneously transpire before that can happen, which is very improbable,” Cadiz told Newsbreak in a text message.

“In short, that can only happen if the Comelec (Commission on Elections) conspires with Malacañang to make it happen,” he added.

Libertas is a legal group focusing on civil rights and election-related laws.

Installing polling stations
Lozada also warned against logistical problems in the automated polls. Lozada said that installing 48,000 polling stations with adequate signal to transmit results is questionable.

He compared the amount of time it needed for other government and private companies to install different automated teller machines and base satellites.

Comelec 48,000 polling stations (target) 2 months
Smart telecommunications 6,000 base stations 13 years
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) 4,343 lotto outlets 15 years
Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) 2,400 ATMs 30 years

He noted that Smart telecommunications is the largest telecommunications provider in the country and yet they needed 13 years to install the number of base stations they have today. PCSO’s lotto outlets is an impressive number, he said, but it took the government agency 15 years to have that many. BPI has the most number of ATMs in the country and they were able to establish their stations after 30 years.

Lozada questioned how Comelec could establish 48,000 polling stations in just 2 months.

Smartmatic not entitled to give satellites
Lozada said providing satellites is not included in the Smartmatic contract with Comelec to provide them with satellite antennas in the upcoming elections. (See the contract here)

The Comelec previously said that they are ready to go manual in 30% of the polling stations wherein there is no strong signal from the 3 telecommunication companies in the country. (Read: Comelec ready for 30% manual polls, says official)

Thirty percent of the 48,000 polling stations is 14,400—but, Smartmatic said that they would supply only 5,000 satellite antennas.

He said that Comelec would need an extra P3 billion to accommodate the number of precincts without sufficient signal.

He also questioned whether Smartmatic could give it for free: “Ang bait naman ng Smartmatic kung ganon (Smartmatic would be very nice to give the satellites for free).”

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento was asked to comment on how to resolve the issue but has not responded as of press time.

Villar's ads exceed combined airtime of 5 rivals

Villar’s ads exceed combined airtime of 5 rivals
By Maria Althea Teves

MANILA, Philippines–The advertisements of Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Manuel Villar Jr. were aired for a total of 8,730 minutes (6 days) in a span of 3 months before the start of the official campaign period, exceeding the combined airtime of 5 other leading presidential candidates during the same period.

This was according to data of AGB Nielsen Media Research which were presented on Thursday by Pera at Pulitika (PaP), a consortium seeking to monitor election campaign financing.

Television and radio ads of the 6 top presidential candidates were aired for a total of 15,479 minutes from Nov. 1, 2009, to Feb. 8, 2010. The official campaign period started on February 9.

If played continuously, all these ads will take nearly 11 days to watch and listen to.

Senator Benigno Aquino III, former president Joseph Estrada, former defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Senator Richard Gordon, and evangelist Eddie Villanueva had a combined airtime of 6,747 minutes or over 4 days.

Lawyer Roberto Cadiz, PaP consortium chairman and Libertas executive director, said the May 2010 polls is proving to be the most expensive elections. Citing historical data, Cadiz said they are expecting most of the candidates to spend 95% of their campaign kitty on media.

Total television and radio airtime (in minutes) from Nov. 1, 2009 to Feb. 8, 2010
Candidate Television airtime Radio airtime
Senator Benigno Aquino III 536.8 965.5
Former President Joseph Estrada 152.0 141.0
Senator Richard Gordon 776.0 622.5
Former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro 871.0 2,111.0
Brother Eduardo Villanueva 513.3 60.0
Senator Manuel Villar 2054 6676.5
Total of all candidates 4,903 10,576.5
Source: Pera’t Pulitika, AGB Nielsen media research group

Ad spending

Based on published rate cards, Villar’s ads cost a total of P1.2 billion in 3 months. It’s almost equal to the combined spending of P1.3 billion by 5 other leading presidential candidates.

Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act mandates media organizations to give candidates various discount—30% for television, 20% for radio, and 10% for print.

Villar has earlier claimed that he got a 66% discount because he bought the media spots very early.

Ad spending from Nov. 1, 2009 to Feb 8, 2010
Candidate Ad spending
Senator Benigno Aquino III P357.58 million
Former President Joseph Estrada P92.7 million
Senator Richard Gordon P245.9 million
Former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro P472.8  million
Brother Eduardo Villanueva P103 million
Senator Manuel Villar P1.2 billion
Total of all candidates P2.5 billion
Source: Pera’t Pulitika, AGB Nielsen media research group