2025 Philippine elections

Bong Go leads ad spending on Facebook a year before 2025 polls

Carmela Fonbuena, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

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Bong Go leads ad spending on Facebook a year before 2025 polls

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

At least 14 potential senatorial candidates have spent over the last three months P3.54 million to boost their posts on the social media platform

MANILA, Philippines – A year before the May 12, 2025 midterm polls, it cannot be a coincidence that potential candidates are among the biggest spenders on Facebook. 

Bong Go leads ad spending on Facebook a year before 2025 polls

Research by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) shows that Facebook pages controlled by at least 14 potential senatorial candidates or their supporters have spent a total of P3.54 million over the last three months to boost their posts on the social media platform.

Analysts said this amount is only the tip of the iceberg, however, because most of the spending is believed to be undeclared. Candidates are expected to prefer social media “influencers” to endorse their campaigns, they said.

In the 2022 presidential campaign, winning candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not spend to boost the posts of his official Facebook page except when he thanked his supporters on the last day of the campaign period. Studies have shown, however, how his network of online supporters have peddled disinformation narratives to advance historical revisionism.

Go leads Facebook spending

Re-electionist Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go spent almost P1 million to boost 266 posts while former senator Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV also spent more than P800,000 to boost 62 posts, based on data from the Facebook Ad Library.

Go ranked in the range of 3rd to 4th in Pulse Asia’s pre-election senatorial polls. Aquino needs to catch up, ranking 18th to 28th.

Only boosted posts are recorded in the Ad Library. Posts made by paid influencers on the social media platform are not covered.

Go is eligible for a second term in the Senate. The main target of his boosted posts were users in Metro Manila, followed by Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

Go also has outdoor billboards in many provinces.

The top spenders also include Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. They each spent more than P400,000 to boost their posts on Facebook.

Unlike Go and Aquino, their posts were not targeted to specific geographical locations. They were generally shown to Facebook users all over the country.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez spent more than P245,000 to boost his page’s posts. More than 80% of the spending was made in the last 30 days. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. spent more than P100,000.

A page supporting former President Rodrigo Duterte spent less than P5,000 to boost its posts. A newly created page supporting Sen. Imee Marcos spent less than P100 to boost one post.

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Billboards of Senator Bong Go are also spotted around the Philippines a year before the 2025 midterm polls. Photo from PCIJ

All these spendings are not covered by election rules limiting campaign expenditures. Election reform advocates said it is a legislative loophole that needs to be amended.

Commission on Elections Chairman George Garcia said they will issue a new ruling that will move the ban on premature campaigning earlier to October 2024, when national candidates are scheduled to file their certificates of candidacies.

The ban previously took effect only during the official campaign period — the 90-day campaign period from February to May of the election year — allowing moneyed candidates to skirt spending limits.

The Facebook Ad Library is a searchable database of ads across Facebook and Instagram that shows the posts that were boosted on the social media platforms and who paid for them. 

The list of the potential candidates included in the PCIJ research is based on the results of pre-election polls published by Pulse Asia.

Local candidates, too

The Facebook Ad Library registered a total of P37.9 million spending on boosted posts over the last three months, which tackled a wide net of electoral and political issues. These posts include news reports and various initiatives such as anti-tobacco campaigns and other posts on health issues.

PCIJ’s conservative list shows that more than P6 million of the spending was made by potential candidates in the national and local elections next year.

Senatorial aspirants cover more than half of the total spending, followed by potential local candidates and party-list groups.

The Ad Library also captured boosted posts by a few potential candidates in the first regular elections of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that coincide with next year’s midterms.

The Ad Library also recorded spending by incumbent senators who are not expected to run for elected posts next year. They include Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Sonny Angara, Koko Pimentel, Jinggoy Estrada, JV Ejercito, and Alan Cayetano.  Rappler.com

This story was first published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Republished with permission.

One year before 2025 Philippine elections: Proxy wars, and where alliances stand

One year before 2025 Philippine elections: Proxy wars, and where alliances stand

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