"Voters need to know."
For the past two months, Manila City Mayor Francisco Domagoso, alias “Isko Moreno,” has been pursuing an early campaign for the presidency. This is obvious from his infinite political advertisements broadcast on prime time and non-prime time hours in the three major competing TV networks.
Moreno’s TV advertisements heap endless praises to the neophyte city mayor for his successful efforts in cleaning up the streets of Manila, and many other alleged accomplishments purportedly attributable to the mayor.
The advertisements highlight Moreno’s rags-to-riches story, and in the process, convey the message that hard work is the key to success. They also show Moreno in graduation attire to suggest that he is an intellectual.
Although rehearsed talents provide the pro-Moreno testimonials in Moreno’s TV advertisements, segments thereof show Moreno practically praising himself for his alleged accomplishments.
The only message missing from Moreno’s TV advertisements is a plea for voters to elect Moreno to the presidency in the coming elections. To do that will be tantamount to premature campaigning, which is prohibited under existing election laws.
By avoiding any explicit “vote for me” message in his TV advertisements, Moreno is able to circumvent the statutory ban against premature campaigning. Clever.
I’ve seen Moreno’s TV advertisements, and so I am speaking from actual experience.
Moreno’s infinite TV advertisements obviously cost a lot of money. Each commercial costs millions of pesos to prepare and produce. Putting them on the major TV networks every day and throughout the long campaign season, costs and will cost hundreds of millions more.
As a city mayor, Moreno’s legitimate income is not enough to pay for those endless TV advertisements. The voters want to know who is paying for Moreno’s very expensive campaign on television.
By the time this essay sees print, Moreno has already spent millions and millions of pesos on those TV advertisements. Whoever bankrolled Moreno’s expensive advertisements will definitely want something in return from Moreno, in the event that Moreno gets himself elected president.
Restated, Moreno will be expected to repay his campaign financiers through political favors in the form of juicy government contracts and similar big time concessions once he becomes president.
If that arrangement ensues, then a Moreno presidency will be no different from the traditional political system obtaining in this country, where politicians who win in the elections are eventually obliged to compromise whatever is left of their principles and repay their financiers’ investment in their political campaign.
The big irony is that in Moreno’s TV advertisements, Moreno wants to project an image of himself as a non-compromising, pro-people public official.
In short, Moreno pretends to abhor traditional patronage politics, but is actually deeply immersed in what he suggests is a rotten political system.
Because Moreno has already incurred pre-campaign expenses in millions of pesos, and is expected to incur much more expenses for the entire duration of his campaign, whoever is paying for his campaign expenses will be expecting a payback worth billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money.
Since Moreno has no visible source of income other than his salary as city mayor, it is reasonable to assume that the money he has been so far spending on his TV advertisements was donated. In the interest of transparency in government, something Moreno claims to uphold, then Moreno should immediately reveal to the public the identity of whosoever is paying for his TV advertisements.
It may be argued that political campaign contributions are accounted for when the elections are over. That may be so, but if Moreno promises a transparent government if he is elected president, then he should start right now by naming names.
That is, unless Moreno has something to hide.
In addition, why does Moreno engage in premature campaigning on nationwide television when, as a politician, he knows that the spirit of the election laws forbids early campaigning? If Moreno has no regard for election laws as Manila city mayor, then he will also disrespect other laws in the unfortunate event that he does win the presidency. How can the electorate entrust all the powers of the presidency to a guy like Moreno who circumvents the law?
My impression of Moreno’s TV advertisements is that his political strategy is to emphasize his impoverished youth and his success that came thereafter. If that is so, then Moreno will be using the same strategy employed by Senator Manny Pacquiao in his past political campaigns, and in his current campaign for the presidency. In the end, Moreno and Pacquiao will have to find out the hard way that the “rags to riches” theme no longer guarantees victory at the polls during these contemporary times.
Be that as it may, the question remains — “Who is paying for Moreno’s TV advertisements? The voters need to know, and know now.