Who funds your senator's campaigns?

CAMPAIGN FUNDING. Do you know who pays for your senatorial candidates' campaigns? Most of the time, the bills fall on relatives, businessmen, and friends.

MANILA, Philippines – Who's running the show?

Behind every election campaign are contributors forking out as little as a few thousand pesos to as much as millions.

Ever since the campaign period officially kicked off on February 9, candidates have started flooding the airwaves, streets, and the Internet with various gimmicks and political advertisements. 

Although some candidates dig into their own pockets to fund campaigns, many of them rely on contributors.

Top spenders

Among all the 2010 and 2013 senatorial bets who are once again gunning for seats this year, incumbent Senator Ralph Recto shelled out the most at P99.9 million.

He is followed by Risa Hontiveros at P88.6 million, and Juan Miguel Zubiri at P72.6 million.

Meanwhile, Greco Belgica spent the least at over P292,000.

Belgica was among the 7 senatorial candidates in 2013 who spent under P1 million: Samson Alcantara, Rizalito David, JC Delos Reyes, Baldomero Falcone, Marwil Llasos, and Christian Señeres.

None of them won seats.

Drilon spent the most personal funds, dishing out P24.96 million. This made up more than half of his total expenditures.

Top spenders Recto, Hontiveros, and Zubiri, however, spent less of their personal funds at P15.9 million, P8.8 million, and P9.2 million, respectively. Their out-of-pocket spending accounted for roughly 11% to 16% of their total expenditures.

If candidates themselves are not dropping much of their own coins for their campaigns, then who is?

Most of the time, the bills fall on businessmen, relatives, and friends.

Given such scenario, some voters cannot help but ask whether contributors are expecting something in return once their bets finally land seats.

Staff, kababayan

BIG SPENDER. Senator Ralph Recto spent P99.9 million during his 2013 senatorial campaign.

File photo by Alex Nuevaespau00f1a/Senate PRIB

In total, Recto received P84 million from 14 contributors.

Topping the list is his mother, Carmen Recto, who donated P10 million. Other generous contributors include a fellow Batangueño and a staff member.

In 2010, a certain Raul Lacson donated P10 million to Recto's campaign. Recto's office told Rappler that Lacson has been serving as Recto's political consultant. 

Back in 2005, Lacson also worked as a statistician in De La Salle University (DLSU), where he was tagged in the so-called University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) eligibility scam.

Lacson was accused of helping underqualified students or those with bogus papers to get into DLSU's varsity team. In media reports, Lacson was adamant about proving his innocence, claiming he was merely a scapegoat.

Meanwhile, Lauro Leviste II belongs to one of Batangas' wealthiest families. He is among the Levistes who head the Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation.

His uncle, former Batangas governor and ex-convict Antonio Leviste was accused of owning a ranch involved in drug operations. Antonio, hovewer, has denied all allegations.

The property was developed by Lauro's father, Conrad Leviste, who claimed the ranch was leased to another party. Authorities linked the said illegal drug activity to one of the world's most notorious drug trafficking syndicates, the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Friends, supporters

CONTRIBUTIONS. Among the 2016 senatorial bets who ran in previous elections, Risa Hontiveros has the most number of campaign contributors.

Rappler file photo

Is 3rd time the charm for Risa Hontiveros? 

During her first senatorial bid in 2010, Hontiveros received P46.6 million from contributors. Three years later, more donations poured in totaling P79.8 million.

Most senatorial bets got their funding from a relatively small group of people. Hontiveros, however, had a larger basket. In 2010, she had 39 contributors, with Kris Aquino, sister of the President, topping the list at P5 million. In 2013, the number of donors quadrupled.

But Hontiveros is not the only one with generous contributors. Susan Ople sourced more than half of her P42.9 million campaign expenditures from 3 individuals and one support group dubbed as the "Ople for Senator Movement."

Meanwhile, Jovito Palparan Jr's biggest funders include a relative, Erwin Palparan, and a certain Danny Ong. In 2008, Palparan and Ong were involved in a "word war" in Bulacan.

Ong works with Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation, which accused Palparan and his armed men of illegally entering the company's mining site. 

Two years after the dispute, Ong donated P1 million to Palparan.

Businessmen, family

EAT BULAGA. Tito Sotto during the Halloween special of 'Eat Bulaga.' His biggest funder is the producer of his TV show.

Screengrab from Instagram/@eatbulaga1979

In the Philippines, it is common for candidates to be funded by their own families. An example is presidential bet Manuel "Mar" Roxas II whose clan brought in a lot of cash to his previous campaigns.

Another example is Teofisto Guingona III, whose contributions came mostly from relatives, including his father, former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr. As for Belgica, half of his funds came from his mother, Carmelita.

Aside from relatives, other common backers are businessmen.

Zubiri, the 3rd biggest spender, received P63.4 million from 11 donors. Palawan governor Jose Chavez Alvarez contributed the biggest piece of the pie at P20 million.

In 2015, Alvarez was reported to be the country's richest elected politician. He is worth at least P3.97 billion, according to his 2013 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Alvarez owns bus companies and is the country's distributor of Nissan, BMW, and Kia vehicles. He was also formerly known as a logging tycoon.

Next to Alvarez, Zubiri's biggest contributions came from relatives. His wife Audrey Kay gave P13 million, while his grandmother, Rosita Ocampo-Fernandez, gave P10 million.

Meanwhile, Franklin Drilon received P22 million from 24 contributors. The biggest chunk came from businessman Hector S. Genuino, who dished out P5 million.

In this batch, however, Sotto received the biggest contribution from an individual. In 2010, he got P37.9 million from Antonio P. Tuviera, the owner of APT Entertainment Inc, which produces his TV show Eat Bulaga.

Before eyeing the Senate, Edu Manzao first tried his luck with the vice presidency. His 2010 campaign was funded by his party Lakas Kampi-CMD. 

Not everyone, however, is transparent with their transactions. Lito Lapid and Rey Langit did not dislose in their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) to the Comelec who their contributors were.

All candidates are required to submit their SOCEs in June. Those who overspend or source their funding through illicit means will be penalized.

As of January 2016, Sotto keeps the lead in the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. 

Big spenders Recto, Hontiveros, and Zubiri are among the "magic 12." New names like Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva also made the cut. – Rappler.com

To reach the Comelec Campaign Finance Office, contact 525-9334.

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