Before he slid down to VP race, the Liberal bet was ready to match Villar’s resources
MANILA, Philippines—To veterans in political circles, the 2010 presidential campaign started 3 years ago. In November 2007, in a huge event at the historic Club Filipino, Senator Manuel Roxas II assumed presidency of the Liberal Party (LP) and vowed to bring the party to victory in 2010.
Roxas’s presidential ambitions, like Manuel Villar Jr.’s, have been an open secret as far back as 2004. Until Benigno Aquino III entered the picture in August 2009, the country was gearing for a battle royal between the top campaign spenders of the 2001 (Villar) and 2004 (Roxas) senatorial elections.
In a shocking announcement in September—before crying supporters, also in Club Filipino—Roxas said he would just seek the vice presidency to give way to Aquino, his party mate who now wanted to be the Liberal standard bearer.
It was a big decision for Roxas, who had spent a lot on his preparations for the presidential campaign. On political advertising alone, he spent a total of P575.39 million on TV, radio, and print from January to August 2009, based on data from the media monitoring firm AGB Nielsen Media Research.
Roxas was prepared to match Villar’s advertising spending. The LP bet was even outspending his NP rival from January to April 2009, when Roxas spent a total of P268 million versus Villar’s P179 million.
It was old money versus new money. Roxas comes from the old-rich Araneta clan that owns vast tracts of land, more prominently the Araneta Center, a prime property in Cubao, Quezon City. Villar, on the other hand, became a billionaire through his real estate business.
By May 2009, however, Villar beat Roxas’s spending. In the 8-month period from January to August, Villar spent P790 million, which is P215 million more than Roxas’s spending.
The amounts are based on rate cards. The actual cost may be lower. Villar earlier claimed that he got a 66% discount on ad placements because he bought the spots early.
Villar and Roxas may be considered the pioneers of political advertising in the Philippines.
In the 2001 senatorial elections, Villar was the first politician to maximize political advertising. To the tune of Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb,” a hit song at that time, he introduced his ST slogan (Sipag at Tiyaga, or industry and perseverance), relating those traits to his success in business and politics. He was also endorsed by popular sexy actress Rosanna Roces.
Villar’s ads were credited for his rise from No. 14 in the January 2004 surveys to No. 7 in the official election results. The political ad ban was only lifted in January 2001. Villar was among the few who were prepared to use the new campaign tool. (He won a re-election in 2007 elections, when he was the 3rd biggest spender.)
It was Roxas who pushed the limits of political advertising in the 2004 elections.
In January 2003, or 14 months before Election Day, Roxas introduced himself as “Mr. Palengke” in radio ads. In April 2003, he launched his TV ads, where the Wharton graduate sashayed to the popular tune of “Mr. Suave” by the band Parokya ni Edgar band.
Based on rate cards, then AC Nielsen data shows that Roxas spent P80.9 million in the pre-election year.
That amount, however, is questionable. The whole 2003, when he was launching several advertisements, Roxas was the secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. He resigned only on December 10.
So like President Arroyo, who was a sitting president before the 2004 polls, Roxas could have also gotten a free ride on advertisements placed by his agency.
A Commission on Audit report shows that the DTI spent P26 million for ads in 2003. This amount is almost 10 times more than the agency’s advertising expenses the following year, P3 million in 2004, when Roxas had left the agency.
The amount of ads put out by DTI under Roxas in 2003 was equivalent to close to half (41%) of what 5 other government agencies and corporations combined spent on ads featuring President Arroyo that year (P63.16 million).
From January to May 2004, when Roxas was no longer with DTI, he spent P96.3 million on his campaign ads.
Roxas topped the 2004 elections with nearly 19 million votes, beating popular movie action star Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., who ranked 2nd. It was a big showing for a relatively unknown Cabinet secretary who ranked 22nd among senatorial hopefuls 8 months before elections. His ads were largely credited for his success.
The VP race
The presidential race was not encouraging for Roxas, however. Even as he battled Villar in the airwaves last year, he was trailing behind in the surveys.
The highest rating Roxas got in 2009 was 13% in May 2009. He ranked 5th among rumored candidates, although at 3% margin of error they were all statistically tied at the top spot.
The other candidates were Vice President Noli De Castro (18%), Senator Francis Escudero (17%), former President Joseph Estrada (15%), and Villar (14%).
But Roxas failed to boost his numbers. In the following survey, conducted from July to August 2008, he lost 2 points. Villar topped this survey with 25%.
When the idea of Benigno Aquino III’s candidacy was broached after President Aquino’s death, LP stalwarts were split. Eventually, Roxas himself offered to slide down.
"Ito na ang pinakamabigat na desisyon sa buhay ko. Maniwala man kayo o hindi, ginagawa ko ito para sa bayan, para sa inyo (This is the hardest decision I had to make in my life. Believe it or not, I did this for the country, for you). I do this for unity in support of change. And if that means that somebody must make the sacrifice, it must be me. Ako na," Roxas told supporters in Club Filipino.
It’s a different story now in the vice presidential race, where it’s become a battle between the top senators of the 2004 (Roxas) and 2007 (Legarda) elections. Both had also aspired for the presidency.
In the Pulse Asia surveys of January and February 2010, Roxas maintained double-digit leads over Legarda. He enjoyed a rating of 47% and 43%, respectively, versus Legarda’s 28% and 27%.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay is a far 3rd—13% and 15%, respectively—in the vice presidential race.
Roxas has cut down on spending since he slid down to the vice presidential race. From September to December 2009, he was outspent 4 times by Legarda. The latter spent P178 million versus Roxas’s P42.62 million.
From January to August 2009, Roxas’s monthly average spending on ads was P72 million. In Septembers, when he declared that he would only be seeking the vice presidency, he only spent P5.24 million on ads. In October, Roxas stopped placing ads altogether.He resumed his spending in November, starting at a meager P1.37 million. In December, he spent P36 million.