WAR CHESTS

amagno

FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno

Administration candidates have the unspoken advantage of access to government resources, including personnel and vehicles to support their rallies and disseminate their paraphernalia. Social media brims with photos of government vehicles laden with Roxas-Robredo supporters or with their campaign materials.

KRIS CHOPPER

This is almost an axiom: money is the mother’s milk of politics.

In the homestretch of this campaign, the money is going to flow like we have not seen before. This is because those who have the money desperately need to catch up with the frontrunners.

As a general rule, a third of a presidential candidate’s war chest goes to the “air war” – the political advertising that now swamps the airwaves. Another third goes to campaign operations, which includes funding sorties and distributing contributions to local allies. The last third goes to election day operations, including deploying poll watchers, mobilizing voters to make sure they are present at the precincts and monitoring the count.

Candidates that have not set aside enough money for election day operations generally choke in the endgame. Their volunteers and poll watchers disappear. Their voters are left unattended.

In the 1992 elections, the Miriam Santiago campaign held back on election day operations and the candidate went on to lose the presidency by a nose. In 2010, the Villar headquarters decided their candidate had lost and froze election day spending to cut losses. The candidate subsequently lost by a mile.

Administration candidates have the unspoken advantage of access to government resources, including personnel and vehicles to support their rallies and disseminate their paraphernalia. Social media brims with photos of government vehicles laden with Roxas-Robredo supporters or with their campaign materials.

The fact that this tandem registered their party’s campaign slogan as their official nicknames on the ballot tells us they are not shy about cutting corners to gain every indecent advantage there is. The LP spokesman, almost by rote, tells us the party will “investigate” every reported use of government assets for the Roxas-Robredo campaign.

By the sheer volume of reported cases of misuse of government assets for campaign purposes, the LP headquarters will have its hands full investigating their own partisans. This is why no one takes seriously the spokesman’s pledge to investigate. Misusing government assets, including secretive meetings with police generals, has become the rule rather than the exception in the case of the LP.

This is also why there was such an outburst over photos of Kris Aquino using presidential choppers to campaign for the LP tandem. It was, after all, not an isolated case. The President himself has put all national business aside to campaign full-time for his candidates.

Our election laws are clear. The very act of commandeering government resources for partisan purposes is an offense.

In the face of the outburst, the President gave a bizarre explanation. His sister, he said, is a major taxpayer.

Following Aquino’s logic, one wit seriously proposed that the presidential choppers be ceded to Manny Pacquiao for the remainder of the campaign period. The boxing champion, after all, is the top individual taxpayer. Kris merely ranks 16th.

Bag lady

Over the last few weeks, Leni Robredo turned out to be the biggest spender for political advertising. The advertising bill should now run into the hundreds of millions.

It is understandable the LP would be willing to invest a bit more for Robredo. More than her standard-bearer, she has a good shot at winning the vice presidential contest in the light of the incredible collapse of the Escudero campaign.

Whenever asked, Robredo explains her political war chest consists of contributions from “friends and relatives.” Posturing as an advocate of transparency in government, she should go into a little more detail.

After the 2013 elections, a case against Robredo was filed with the Comelec. Not surprisingly, the poll body has not yet ruled on the complaint even as her term as congresswoman runs out.

In the 2013 elections, Robredo reported she received donations from “Filipinos” abroad. That was sly. On closer scrutiny, it turns out her donors were American citizens. Receiving donations from foreign interests is strictly prohibited.

From her own website and her own paid ad thanking contributors, Robredo received money from individuals abroad who cannot be described as “Filipinos” by any stretch of the imagination. Her list of donors includes corporate entities registered in the US. The evidence, emanating from Robredo herself, should have been damning.

In this campaign, questions have been raised about a certain Julie del Castillo. The candidate has yet to directly address the troubling questions.

Julie is obviously a close friend of Leni, travelling with her abroad on a number of occasions. She is a constant presence in her campaign team, performing the role of “bag lady” for all the innumerable items of expenditure the campaign incurs daily.

Julie and her husband Bong del Castillo have been close to the Robredo couple for years. There appears to be more than friendship between them.

Bong del Castillo happens to be the biggest contractor for government projects in Camarines Sur. For this year alone, the contractor is said to hold over P2 billion in government contracts for Naga and surrounding provinces.

Sources in the area say Bong del Castillo enjoys a near-monopoly over government contracts. He must be running a truly efficient operation. Friendship with the Robredos did not hurt either.

Pray tell us Leni that Julie is not disbursing her own money as she plays the role of treasurer to the Robredo campaign. Spending her own money will create an unduly large debt of gratitude.

And if she is not disbursing millions of her own money for the campaign, pray tell us Leni that your impressive war chest was not once more raised from contributions made by “Filipinos” in the US.

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