Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. defended their decision to unseat erring candidates for failure to submit their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCEs) over election lawyers’ claims that the poll body’s order did not go through “due process.”
Although Brillantes admitted that their decision to penalize the 422 elected local officials “was not stated under the law, but under a Comelec resolution,” election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that the poll body should have written to the local officials prior to informing the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Congress.
Lawyer George Garcia, on the other hand, said that the Comelec has no authority to unseat sworn-in officials based on deficiencies of their SOCE.
Brillantes, however, stressed that the resolution has already been implemented since 2012 and that there is no question regarding its legality.
“That [resolution]is equivalent to a law because that is an implementation of our rule-making authority,” he added.
Garcia, for his part, argued that the provision cited by the Comelec “speaks only of administrative fine for those [officials]who did not file the SOCE.”
Under Section 14 of Republic Act 7166, a public official cannot act on his duties until he has filed the SOCE.
“If the politician filed his campaign spending report, but the poll body found technical defi-ciencies, Section 14 . . . is not appli-cable,” Garcia said in an interview.
The poll body chief, on the other hand, noted that their order to unseat the officials was effective, as some of the can-didates were already complying with their SOCEs.
Meanwhile, officials can only be reinstated if they will pay a penalty of P30,000 and file their SOCEs properly.
On December 12, the Comelec has asked the DILG and the House of Representatives to unseat the 422 elected local officials for failing to submit their SOCEs.
Among the more prominent officials are former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga, Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, Governors Vilma Santos of Batangas, Ryan Luis Singson of Ilocos Sur, ER Ejercito of Laguna and Amado Espino of Espinosa, and Mayor Tony Calixto of Pasay City.
Robertzon F. Ramirez