Santiago to go after pre-campaign advertisers

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Bacolod City (CNN Philippines) — Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Friday (April 29) vowed to prosecute candidates who engaged in pre-campaign advertising.

"I will seek the criminal prosecution of all people who engaged in pre-campaign advertising, the law sets up penalty for people guilty of that offense," Santiago told supporters and students at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, where she delivered a speech with an anti-corruption message.

"I will try my best that those guilty are prosecuted."

She said it sets a bad example that no one follows rules in this country.

However, the Commission on Elections had already ruled out premature campaigning as a criminal offense and a ground of disqualification of guilty candidates. The Supreme Court revised that ruling in 2006.

Related: No such thing as premature campaigning in PH - Comelec

According to a recent report by the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), pre-campaign ads this election period amounted to P6.7 billion.

Santiago said she does not discount the possibility that cheating will occur in the elections, and that there is already an attempt to "condition the minds of the public" through commercial surveys.

"If we follow them, it will not be the voters who will win but it is the owners of these commercial presidential surveys," said Santiago, who is consistently at the bottom of pre-election polls.

The senator told the crowd how other camps had tried to convince her out of the presidential race and support another candidate instead, by offering her P300 million.

"We have to watch out because there's a lot of falsity going around. So these candidates who are set to be leading were those who precisely are guilty of pre-campaign advertising," she said.

"They will not stop at that. A lot of money has been spent during these elections. Too much money."

Another PCIJ report revealed that Santiago did not spend anything on campaign advertisements in the first two months of the election period.

Related: Who has spent the most money on campaign ads?

She warned there may be an "uprising" from her supporters in the event of cheating.

"I cannot promise that as in 1992, when I was cheated, I will be able to prevent this time our youth volunteers from taking to the streets and demanding for justice," she said.