Winning elections isn't about money, says PH's richest senator Villar

Published May 20, 2021, 11:50 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Candidates do not need to be bothered by money when campaigning during elections, as donations or contributions will come to them if they are really set to win.

This was Senator Cynthia Villar’s two cents as the Senate discussed Wednesday, May 19, the bill seeking to increase the allowable campaign expenses of presidential, vice presidential, senatorial and local candidates.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate agriculture and food panel, during the hybrid hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government’s decision to open up the importation of pork amid the impacts of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Senate of the Philippines)

“You know, hindi naman (it’s not) — ‘pag winning candidate ka, kahit mahirap ka, maraming magbibigay sayo ng pera. ‘Pag losing candidate ka kahit mayaman ka, hindi ka mananalo (if you are a winning candidate even if you are poor, many will give you the money for campaign. If you are a losing candidate, you won’t win even if you are rich). That’s the reality of Philippine politics. ’Wag nyong sabihing nasa pera ‘yan (Don’t say it’s about the money),” Villar told her colleagues.

“’Pag winning candidate ka, ang daming magko-contribute. ‘Pag losing candidate ka, miski gastahin mo lahat mg pera mo at mayaman ka hindi ka mananalo (If you are a winning candidate, people will contribute to your campaign. If you are a losing candidate, even if you are rich and spend all your money, you won’t win),” she continued.

“So it doesn’t matter, I think,” Villar said.

Villar is the richest member of the 24-member Senate, with a declared a net worth P3.8 billion at the end of 2019, having no liabilities. In 2019, she emerged as number one in the senatorial race and garnered over 25 million votes for her second term.

Her husband, former Senate president Manuel Villar, was also hailed by Forbes as the richest Filipino in 2020. During the 2010 presidential polls, on the other hand, he lost to former President Benigno Aquino III.

Villar said the rates should just be made “reasonable so that we will not cheat.”

During the plenary debates, senators admitted that some elections candidates have been skirting regulations or “doctor” their campaign expenses due to the meager P3 to P10 allowable expense per voter at present.

Many also engage with “under-the-table” deals with broadcast stations so they don’t exceed the limitations currently set under law, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri bared.

“If we raise it, it will all be declared. It can be legally declared,” Zubiri said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon suggested to set a single rate for all election candidates.

“Whatever is the size of the voting population would determine the total amount that a candidate is allowed to spend,” he proposed.

The Senate suspended the deliberations on the bill after Senator Richard Gordon told his fellow lawmakers that it is not proper to talk about elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.