MANILA, Philippines – Are candidates spending too much on their campaigns, or not enough? And if something's not right in the current system for campaign funding, what should be done about it?
These were the main questions posed on the Twitter conversation Rappler held Thursday, January 28, as part of its #PHVote campaign, and netizens had much to say.
Let's take a look at key moments during the conversation:
Netizens were split on whether spending P10 per voter was too much for a presidential candidate. Given roughly 54.4 million Filipinos across the country and overseas, that would amount to a P544-million spending limit.
To compute for a candidate's spending limit, multiply the number of registered voters in their constituency by their authorized spending limit:
All candidates are required to declare their finances through their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Under the Omnibus Election Code, election offenses like overspending can be penalized with imprisonment for 1 to 6 years, disqualification, and removal of right to vote.
. @rapplerdotcom Imagine the # of families who can be fed! One family's meals/day cost P439. P544m = more than one million families! #PHVote — Jodesz Gavilan (@jodeszgavilan) January 28, 2016
This is low because this amount was set early 90's. 25 years have passed.1990's 1 peso is not equivalent to 2015's. https://t.co/rTZOrzRxc8 — LENTE Philippines (@lente_ph) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom A lower cap would put well-known candidates with access to political machinery on closer ground with those without. — Gerard Lim (@ruchalim) January 28, 2016
10/Voter? That's soooo decades ago. Current spending is around 1M~/Voter. Precampaign ads shd also be accountd on SOCEs. #PHVote — DJ Earl Dagot (@djEarlDagot) January 28, 2016
What bothers me is how honest they actually are in their SOCEs. I'm not buying it that what they've itemized is accurate. #PHVote — Paige Occeñola (@ohnopaige) January 28, 2016
You know what , the unrealistic spending limit forces candidates to be creative in their SOCEs. https://t.co/9gXTukfuAP — LENTE Philippines (@lente_ph) January 28, 2016
@fritzdrodriguez @rapplerdotcom isn't 10 pesos too small for national candidates? — Mawe Duque (@mawexduque) January 28, 2016
In fact, P544M for a presidential campaign is not big and is not realistic, @fritzdrodriguez @rapplerdotcom #PHvote — Miss Go (@miriamgracego) January 28, 2016
We are an archipelago with 54M voters speaking in 8 major languages. Think of logistical requirements of campaigning. @rapplerdotcom #PHvote — Miss Go (@miriamgracego) January 28, 2016
Some were bothered by the idea that candidates could easily spend far more than they were supposed to, thanks to a legal loophole.
@rapplerdotcom That's not even counting the money they spend BEFORE the official campaign period. Numbers might be higher... #PHVote — fritzie d. rodriguez (@fritzdrodriguez) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom #PHVote I actually think that the candidates spend more than that even before but @COMELEC doesn't really check onto it. — Nadine Frisnedi (@natfwisnedi) January 28, 2016
Too bad pre-campaign period campaign expenses aren't accounted for! Baka umabot pa ng 1billion! #PHVote https://t.co/SJGs3wYgpQ — Josh (@hellothisisjosh) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom limitations are easily skirted by using shell companies/nominees (which are untraceable if it's offshore) — Coños of Manila (@ManilaConyos) January 28, 2016
Sidenote: This shows how necessary it is to ease bank secrecy rules for tax investigation, persecute tax evaders. #PHVote @rapplerdotcom — Paige Occeñola (@ohnopaige) January 28, 2016
While some netizens deemed the spending limit too much, others stressed that the amount set by law is "unrealistic", pushing candidates to cheat in their SOCEs and overspend before the official campaign period.
Some also discussed limiting the amount one donor could give to one candidate, though how that would implemented was a different story altogether.
@rapplerdotcom Right now the cap is on the candidate, not the donor. In other countries, there are limits to how much donors can give. — fritzie d. rodriguez (@fritzdrodriguez) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom For example, in the US an individual can contribute up to $2,700 (P129,101.85) for the entire primary campaign period #PHVote — fritzie d. rodriguez (@fritzdrodriguez) January 28, 2016
Yes. To prevent undue influence after elections. https://t.co/4I8SsFZ06o — LENTE Philippines (@lente_ph) January 28, 2016
. @rapplerdotcom Lower, uniform caps to level the playing field. Those who do not have enough money are left in the dust. #PHVote — Jodesz Gavilan (@jodeszgavilan) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom I can open up 6 companies in BVI and make anonymous donations to a candidate... and it would still be legal. — Coños of Manila (@ManilaConyos) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom the law does not prohibit any amount of money that a donor can give and besides they need to submit their expenses. #PHVote — (@suigeneris_05) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom In certain states in the US, corporations are also banned from contributing funds to candidates' political campaigns #PHVote — fritzie d. rodriguez (@fritzdrodriguez) January 28, 2016
Netizens had interesting ideas for addressing the campaign overspending problem.
No to TV pol ads to pressure candidates into attending forums and debates so they don't rely on their clout. #PHVote @rapplerdotcom — Stacy de Jesus (@stacydejesus) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom With trends moving to digital, I think it would be reasonable to decrease it to maybe P8/voter #PHVote — Raisa Serafica (@RaiMarielle) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom I'd say ban ALL kinds of ad spending. Candidates can use platforms such as Facebook & Twitter but no sponsored posts. #PHVote — Janie Octia (@JanieOctia) January 28, 2016
Maybe we should ban all forms of campaigning other than appearing in debates and forums. :) @HitStrong @rapplerdotcom #PHVote — Miss Go (@miriamgracego) January 28, 2016
Yes to primaries, yes to political party reform. It's about time we have real parties. #PHVote https://t.co/HEruDVfTJR — Paige Occeñola (@ohnopaige) January 28, 2016
The issue of ensuring equal opportunity among all candidates, rich or poor, was also raised.
Require media companies to devote prime time and space for @COMELEC shows, so equal exposure for candidates. @rapplerdotcom #PHvote — Miss Go (@miriamgracego) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom Why dont they show candidate's ads through Comelec sponsored shows, ads, etc to even the playing field. SM is ok . #PHVote — ner (@chichaychi) January 28, 2016
Candidates with rich families/families in politics (honestly same thing) get a HUGE advantage it's like why even bother. #PHVote — Paige Occeñola (@ohnopaige) January 28, 2016
Namamalimos ka pa lang para sa 1M mo, may 50M na sila. #thankyoutrustfund Honest q: Do we/ should we start subsidizing campaigns? #PHVote — Paige Occeñola (@ohnopaige) January 28, 2016
Media organizations will be key, @rapplerdotcom. We should consciously report on ALL candidates' platforms equally. #PHvote — Miss Go (@miriamgracego) January 28, 2016
Finally, netizens were asked to give one word to describe how campaign overspending should be dealt with.
JAIL @rapplerdotcom @miriamgracego #PHVote — Chay Hofileña (@chayhofilena) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom AUDIT #PHVOTE — Acoy San Francisco (@acoy_henyo) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom LIMIT. #PHVote — Kent Garcia (@chiakentz) January 28, 2016
Honesty. #PHVote https://t.co/fqu0GTaoHv — A✖✖ (@AnaEstilong) January 28, 2016
@rapplerdotcom OVERHAUL #PHVote — parselt0ngue (@HitStrong) January 28, 2016
Reform #PHvote. @rapplerdotcom — Miss Go (@miriamgracego) January 28, 2016