How four presidential bets answered when asked about campaign spending

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) — It has been a week since the official campaign period for candidates seeking national posts started. While all national candidates are given three months to woo voters, some presidential bets have bigger machinery and financial backing than others.

During the debate organized by Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) on Tuesday, four presidential candidates were asked how much they spent so far for their campaign?

First to answer was Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. He said his camp did not account for the contributions they received before the campaign period officially started on Feb. 8. He also explained that while he held several campaign caravans nationwide, his political party did not have to shell out a lot of money as their friends and supporters helped shoulder the costs, even lending their aircraft for long-distance travels.

“Gratis et amore naman ang aming usapan diyan,” the standard-bearer of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas said.

[Translation: Our agreement is ‘giving back by giving thanks.’]

Meanwhile, labor leader Leody De Guzman of the Partido Lakas ng Masa said his expenditures so far “would not have reached even the minimum.”

“Hindi ko kaya ang ₱350,000 na billboard sa EDSA na isang buwan. Hindi ko kaya ang ₱800,000 na isang labas sa TV ads na 15 seconds,” he added.

[Translation: I cannot pay ₱350,000 for a billboard that would be put up along EDSA for a month. I cannot pay ₱800,000 for a 15-second television ad.]

De Guzman pointed out that those who are able to afford such advertisements are politicians who are either wealthy or backed by businessmen.

He also reiterated his proposal that election expenses should be shouldered by the government, instead of individual candidates or political parties, in order to level the playing field.

This is an idea backed by presidential hopeful Norberto Gonzales, who likened his campaign spending to De Guzman’s. Gonzales said he relies on invitations for fora and debates to reach a wider audience and to present his platforms.

“Malaking katipiran sa bayan kung ang gobyerno ang gagastos sa ating eleksyon. Tandaan natin, ang mga ibinibigay at ginagastos sa eleksyon, babawiin. Lugi ang mamamayan,” said Gonzales, who served as Secretary of National Defense during the Arroyo administration.

[Translation: The country will save a lot of money if the government will pay for the elections. Let’s remember, contributors will take back the money they used during the polls. The Filipino people will suffer a loss.]

Meanwhile, former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said he has launched his presidential campaign with the help of volunteers.

“If there’s anything at all, it’s really just, you know, they give you T-shirts,” he said.

“At the end of the campaign period, there will be an accounting, definitely. Pero wala kaming malalaking backer, wala kaming malaking makinarya (But we don’t have big backers, we don’t have a huge machinery), in fact, so basically it’s all volunteers,” he added.

The Commission on Elections requires candidates to submit a Statement of Contribution and Expenditures after the campaign period. The SOCE should detail where their funds came from and went to.

SMNI is the broadcasting arm of the religious group Kingdom of Jesus Christ led by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.