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Ad-driven race

Poll: Contest for Senate shaken up by airtime buys

POLITICAL advertisements are shaking up the senatorial race with candidates who were previously ranked low making it to the Magic 12, the latest The Standard Poll showed.

Three candidates­—former senator Richard Gordon, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority head Joel Villanueva—joined the top 12 in the survey covering the period of Feb. 24 to March 1.

“The senatorial race has become very volatile. The ranking is fluid, owing to the political advertisements of the candidates,” said Junie Laylo, The Standard’s resident pollster.

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For the survey period of Feb. 24 to March 1, Laylo said television advertisements, in particular, played a huge role in the ranking of the senatorial aspirants.

“The ranking changes almost every week such that any survey will reflect the sentiment of the voters depending on the volume of political ads that they watched within the week that the survey was conducted,” Laylo added.

Re-electionist Senator Vicente Sotto III retained his lead with 50 percent of the respondents saying they will vote for him if the elections were held today.

Former senator Francis Pangilinan, who placed fourth in January, was now tied in second place with re-electionist Senator Ralph Recto with 43 percent each, followed by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros who went up from sixth place to fourth with 39 percent.

Among the candidates who made it to the top 12, the biggest gainers were Romualdez, who shot up from 16th place to 10th with 31 percent; Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who jumped to fifth place with 37 percent from 10th place in January; and Villanueva, who, from 13th place, is now tied with re-electionist Senator Franklin Drilon at seventh to eighth place with 36 percent.

Drilon, however, was the biggest loser, dropping six notches from second place in January.

Gordon, who was in 15th place in the previous survey, is now tied at the 11th to 14th place with former Justice secretary Leila de Lima, re-electionist Senator Teofisto Guingona III and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao with 30 percent each.

In the National Capital Region, where most candidates spread most of their television advertisements, the three new candidates who made it to the Magic 12 were actually ranked higher: Gordon is ranked fifth with 46 percent, Villanueva at the eight spot with 41 percent, and Romualdez securing the ninth place with 40 percent.

The survey has a national margin of error of +/- 1.8 percent, with 3,000 respondents­—all of whom are registered voters with biometrics and who said they are sure to vote in the May elections—from 79 provinces and 40 highly urbanized cities across the country and the 17 cities in the National Capital Region.

Presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago  on Wednesday  said the “scandalous” amounts being spent by her rivals should prompt graft and corruption investigations.

Santiago, author of the proposed Anti-Premature Campaigning Law, questioned how other presidential aspirants can afford to spend way beyond the wealth declared in their statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth for their campaign.

“They spent at least five times the net worth they have declared for ads. One candidate even spent by 17 times his net worth,” Santiago said. “Where did they get the money?”

If the public is to speculate, she said they would think that these candidates have either stolen from public funds or peddled their influence.

Santiago issued the statement in the wake of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report that four of the five presidential candidates have collectively spent some P3.2 billion in ads from January 2015 to January 2016, or before the campaign period.

The PCIJ report also showed gaps between the candidates’ ad spending and their declared wealth. Vice President Jejomar Binay was allegedly the top spender, having placed P1.05 billion worth of ads, 17.4 times his net worth of P60.2 million in 2014.

He was followed by Senator Grace Poe, who reportedly spent P1.016 billion on ads despite a net worth of only P89.5 million; Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas, who spent P969 million despite a net worth of only P202 million; and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who spent P146 million despite a net worth of P21.97 million.

“Almost all of these candidates are incumbent public officials, and have access to government funds,” said Santiago.

She said they are also prohibited by law from receiving gifts if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive,” Santiago said.

The senator added that although accepting campaign contributions is standard practice during elections, the candidates are nonetheless obliged to reveal their donors and to pay for taxes for contributions received outside of the campaign period.

“The people deserve to know who bankroll the campaigns of elective officials so that when a campaign contributor enjoys benefits to the detriment of the public under the official’s watch, the people would know who to hold accountable,” Santiago said.

Sought for her comment on campaign spending, Poe said the PCIJ figure was so big.

Admitting that the cost of advertisements is high, Poe said there was a difference between the rate card and the negotiated price.

But she said she would report her expenses and name financiers in her statement of campaign expenses.

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Topics: The Standard Poll , Senatorial ranks , ad-driven race , senatorial candidates , survey
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