• Can Comelec extend the non-extendible?

    31

    THE Commission on Elections’ en banc resolution allowing an extension of the final and non-extendible June 8 deadline for the filing of Statements of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE) by candidates in the May 9 elections constitutes not only an extremely dangerous precedent but, above all, a grave abuse of discretion and a patent violation of the law. It is null and void ab initio.

    Commissioner Christian Robert Lim is reportedly set to resign today as head of the finance campaign office, in protest against the ruling, which seeks to set aside the provision of the Omnibus Election Code and Comelec Resolution 9991, by a vote of four to three. Both PDP-Laban, the President-elect’s adopted political party, and Vice President Jejomar Binay’s UNA have denounced the ruling as illegal, without saying whether they are taking any concrete action against it or not.

    To the Supreme Court
    For his part, election lawyer Manuelito Luna, who figured prominently in the celebrated citizenship case against the defeated presidential candidate Grace Poe Llamanzares, will be asking the Supreme Court in his capacity as a concerned citizen and taxpayer to invalidate the Comelec ruling and restore the “status quo ante.” This should happen sometime today.

    Under the law, as clarified by Comelec Resolution 9991, a winning candidate may not take his oath of office if he or his party fails to file his SOCE within the deadline fixed by law. All the candidates have filed their individual SOCEs on time, but their party—the ruling Liberal Party—has failed to do so and has asked for a 14-day extension of the non-extendible deadline.

    The campaign finance office called for strict compliance with the law and denial of the requested extension, but the banc decided to extend the deadline until June 30. The law does not grant the Comelec any such authority, but speaking for the banc, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, one of the four commissioners who voted to extend, said that “procedural rules cannot prevail over the people’s sovereign will.”

    An absurdity?
    Justifying the ruling, the Comelec spokesman pointed out that if the law were followed to the letter, the Vice-President-elect, five senators-elect, 40 governors-elect and 115 congressmen-elect would not be able to assume office, with incalculable adverse consequences to the operations of the entire government. This would be an absurdity, the spokesman said.

    We respectfully disagree. Indeed, it would be most unfortunate if all these elected candidates were barred from taking their oath of office because their party had failed to do its basic duty. But this would be merely a consequence of the normal operations of the law. There is nothing absurd about the law, so by no means could we call it an absurdity.

    Indeed, it would be an absurdity if, during the time that the candidates and the LP were preparing their SOCE, a major earthquake, tsunami, epidemic, terrorist attack or any other kind of force majeure struck and destroyed the nation’s cities and countryside, and all LP offices everywhere, and yet the Comelec insisted that they submit their SOCE on time, as if the national calamity did not exist.

    Without any force majeure occurring, a real absurdity would arise if hundreds of winning candidates and their respective parties neglected to comply with the simplest legal requirement and yet were spared from any penalty because those who were supposed to enforce the law had decided to bend it, believing they possessed a power they did not have. What the Comelec has done to prevent a so-called absurdity is the real absurdity, which seeks to trample upon the law.

    Guanzon’s statement
    Commissioner Guanzon’s statement that procedural rules cannot rise above the people’s sovereign will, properly applied and understood, merits no debate. But there are written and unwritten rules attached to the grant of a sovereign mandate to ensure its validity and legitimacy. One such condition is that no candidate must accept financial contributions from an illegal or prohibited source nor spend more money in excess of the amount allowed by law.

    For this purpose, the candidate and his party are required to submit a complete and accurate SOCE within an inflexible period fixed by law. This requirement cannot be waived because it is supposed to perfect a candidate’s and his party’s participation in the electoral process. If the SOCE shows that the candidate or his party had received donations from an illegal source, or had spent more money than was allowed by law, then he would have to be summarily disqualified by the Comelec, regardless of his claim to a “landslide victory.”

    There have been high-profile examples of this, the latest being the popular candidate E.R. Ejercito, who won the 2013 governorship of Laguna, but was disqualified for spending more than he was allowed by law, according to his SOCE.

    Ministerial act
    All winning candidates will have to take their oath of office at noon of June 30 in accordance with law. The June 8 deadline allows the Comelec a reasonably sufficient time to go through the SOCE of winning candidates to see whether each of them, together with their respective political parties, had complied with the law governing campaign contributions and expenses. Extending that deadline to June 30 would deny the Comelec the material time needed to examine the SOCE properly, especially those filed on the last day or the last few days.

    It would thus reduce the filing of the SOCE, and its reception by the Comelec, into mere ministerial acts. The Comelec would no longer have the material time needed to discover that a particular candidate was in willful violation of the law governing the execution of this important document and had to be prevented from taking his oath of office.

    The fact that the Vice-President-elect, five senators-elect, 40 governors-elect, and 115 congressmen-elect will not be able to take their oath of office because of the LP’s failure to comply with the law is not a problem of the Comelec, whose duty it is to enforce the law, but solely that of the candidates and the LP, which has failed to comply with the law. This should ultimately lead to LP’s disenfranchisement as an “irresponsible party,” even without the massive post-election migration of its members to Duterte’s new party.

    Scary scenario
    I am not competent to describe the scenario that should obtain if and when the elected candidates mentioned above are unable to assume office. I can only speculate it would be scary. In the case of the Vice President, the Constitution provides that “whenever there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice President during the term for which he has been elected, the President shall nominate a Vice President from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately.”

    Complicated VP
    But aside from the SOCE issue confronting Vice-President-elect Leni Robredo, her election is under serious question by her closest rival, Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos, Jr., who has alleged massive fraud, particularly in Muslim Mindanao, and has announced his intention to file a formal election protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, on June 28. This complicates the issue of vacancy in the Office of the Vice President, and how the above-quoted constitutional provision will apply.

    Effects on Senate presidency
    With respect to the vacancies occurring in Congress, the Constitution provides for special elections to fill up such vacancies. Meantime, the five Senate vacancies would reduce the 24 regular Senate members to only 19; in the House, the 115 vacancies would leave 177 active members. Both Houses would still have enough members to constitute a majority, but in the Senate, the five vacancies could alter the fight for the Senate presidency.

    Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, the PDP-Laban’s lone member, was earlier reported to have sewed up with the support of the LP. But with Senate President Frank Drilon, top-ranking LP, and four others out in the cold, another senator could emerge to challenge Pimentel’s prospective Senate presidency.

    In the case of the 40 governors-elect, they will simply be succeeded by their vice governors, thereby ensuring the uninterrupted operations of the provincial governments concerned. The LGUs are the least likely to be adversely affected by these developments.

    Simplifying govt
    Should the Supreme Court sustain the Comelec and confirm the extension of the SOCE deadline, President-elect Duterte might be encouraged to seriously consider his earlier “promise” to remove unwanted and unhelpful elements in government and simplify the running of government.

    The simplification of his inaugural appears to be but a first step. Instead of holding the inaugural at the Rizal Park, where past Presidents had held theirs, President-elect Duterte will hold his at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacañang Palace, before a limited and controlled audience of 500 guests. He will be sworn into office by Associate Supreme Court Justice Bienvenido Reyes, a fraternity brother of the Lex Talionis Fraternitas at the San Beda College of Law, where they both studied law.

    The choice of Reyes to administer the incoming President’s oath of office is reported to have caused “palpitations” on the part of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom President B.S. Aquino 3rd pole-vaulted from the most junior position to her present post after he had the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona impeached and removed from office on one “non-impeachable” offense by paid members of the House and the Senate impeachment court. At the time Reyes, a 2011 Aquino appointee, was offered the chance to become Chief Justice, but he formally declined being included in the “short list” of nominees “out of respect for the senior justices.”

    Chief Justice fears
    Although Duterte has not telegraphed any moves against the Chief Justice, Sereno appears to entertain fears that what Aquino had done to Corona the new President might do to her, without his having to invent any valid grounds for her impeachment and removal the way Aquino invented grounds against Corona. It is not clear whether Sereno has been invited to the Duterte inaugural.

    Although the Vice President is traditionally sworn into office together with the President, this will not happen this time. Even if the High Court resolves the SOCE issue in favor of the LP, and all legal obstacles to Leni Robredo taking her oath are withdrawn, the plan is for her to hold her own separate oath-taking somewhere else. We do not have the precise details as of now, but we can be sure it will not be held at the Quirino Grandstand, and neither Sereno nor any other SC justice will administer her oath. Regardless of the venue, according to reports, a barangay official from Caramoan, Camarines Sur, will do the honors.

    The apparent motif is one of extreme simplicity, which should create the intended news headlines. But the barangay official concerned might not have the competent authority to administer the oath to the incoming Vice President, especially if he or she would perform the act in Metro Manila, far away from his or her territorial jurisdiction.

    fstatad@gmail.com

    Share.
    loading...
    Loading...

    Please follow our commenting guidelines.

    31 Comments

    1. What more need to be said. This is just another proof that the Comelec has never been the independent body that the law of the land intended this commission to be. It bends,sways and vows to the whims, wishes and dictates of whoever is in power. At this point in time, it happens to be the Liberal party. The Comelec did the very same thing under the Arroyo administration. The lamentable thing is it will continue to do the same thing with every administration for as long as it allows itself to be subverted.

    2. If an ordinary people did not follow the rule of the law made by the government they are reprimand for it, but if the government did not follow the rule of law which themselves made it they will used the people to avoid reprimand. F*ck the law if the lawmaker itself are not following it.

    3. Pinahihirapan ninyo ang issue,,kay duterte na lang ay pinayagan nila ang pagtakbo,,may nag reklamo ba? kahit na illegal ang pag file niya? puwede naman ma delay,,monetary penalty lang naman ang idudulog sa di naka file ng maaga..Kayo naman,,Gusto lang ninyo maupo si bobong marcos,,eh di rinsiya makakupo at may senate president pa…mga Bobo!

    4. the word “may” if directly lifted as written in the law is discretionary as opposed to the word “shall”.

      1. “may not take oath” subject to approval or contingencies.
      2. “shall not take oath” categorical with no deviation.

      i have not read the constitutional law with regards to to vacancy of elected officials as in the VP but i suppose that the precding paragraphs talks about asumption of office before the paragraph on vacancy is mentioned. therefore, the intent of the law by nature of logic is for an actual assumption of office to have first occurred before the vacancy substitution occurs. in this respect, the VP is assumed to have been duly sworn in before the vacancy occurred. if the VP is not able to take the oath of office, then actual asssumption of office did not occur and therefore the law cannot be applied.

    5. ABSURDITY ẃhattt?????……these candidates and their party the LAPIAN NG PANDARAYA have put it upon themselves this predicament they are in…. the deadline was very clear… they had almost 1 month to comply, they have lots of people to do the job because of mountains of budget at their disposal, and majority of the winners and mind you losers of other parties complied with this provision… so what makes them so special to be accorded this VIP treatment…. this comelec had already earned the ire of the voters because of conniving with smartmatic to cheat in the VP and some senatorial bets during the counting of votes, they did not pursue the person involved in the cheating by not filing a hold departure order for this person who was able to leave the country yesterday and now this— whose ulterior motive is to allow the questionable VP and some LP senators and local officials to occupy their post by voting in favor of extending the filing of SOCE…shame ..shame..and triple shame…. impeachment proceedings should now be immediately put into action to discard these bad eggs in the comelec

    6. No matter what, the authoritative will continuously smash the law.

      They make the law; But they are the one who breaks the law!

      That is why now…. the change is coming… go DU30…go…

    7. maria santiago on

      Dear Sir:
      Do you think it will make a difference? Who is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? Isn’t it Sereno? The same one who ‘misinterpreted’ the Constitution of the Philippines and allowed Poe to run? What is the SOCE compared to that?
      From a disgruntled citizen

    8. ernie del rosario on

      Comelec’s argument is logically fallacious (even considering the dire consequences), period. Here is an example of applying reduction ad absurdum:

      I am going into surgery tomorrow so please pray for me. If enough people pray for me, God will protect me from harm and see to it that I have a successful surgery and speedy recovery.

      Explanation: We first assume the premise is true: if “enough” people prayed to God for her successful surgery and speedy recovery, then God would make it so. From this, we can deduce that God responds to popular opinion. However, if God simply granted prayers based on popularity contests, that would be both unjust and absurd. Since God cannot be unjust, then he cannot both respond to popularity and not respond to popularity, the claim is absurd, and thus false.

    9. Why Robredo picked someone from farthest/poorest baranggay, if the oath taking is to take place in Metro manila?
      If Robredo really wants it done by baranggay captain from the farthest baranggay of her home town, it should be done in that baranggay.

      • ferdeeb, tama ka dapat duon sa barangay where the barangay captain rules should be the venue of robredo’s swearing in. mukhang hindi legal kung dito gagawin sa metro kasi walang kapangyarihan ang barangay captain na iyon dito sa metro.dapat duonsa teritoryo nya.

    10. ernie del rosario on

      There is a technique in mathematics called “reductio ad absurdum” (meaning reducing a theory or argument or similar to the level of absurdity and failing that the argument or theory is proven to be correct). If applied to this ticklish issue, it will definitely NOT pass through this wringer. Ergo the SOCE thing is not an absurdity and should be implemented to the letter as prescribed by the law and Comelec reso. If the law in the first place is absurd then why was the absurdity further strengthened by the attendant Comelec resolution ? Now who are the ones absurd ?

    11. There’s only one question to be asked to Comelec. “Why did they approve the questioned resolution?”

    12. These commissioners are using the ‘will of the people’ at their convenience to justify their ruling! Might as well throw all the rules out. Lawmakers and lawbreakers at the same time. What a shame these people are. SHAMELESS COMMISSIONERS.

    13. P.Akialamiro on

      It is very unfortunate that we have high government officials ‘such as the Comelec “Ommissioners” and the ‘Cheap’ J who take significant rules/laws and the Philippine Constitution lightly. In a way, is it not also the will of the people that the “Ommission On Elections” (Omdelec) was created in accordance by virtue of the fundamental law of the land? No wonder we are in deep ‘shit” because of all these ‘baloney’ whimsical and capricious rulings and opinions, despite spepcific and clear provisions of our laws. Dura lex sed lex!

      Abolish the resolution/law; the Comelec; and, save millions from corrupt officials’ salaries and allowances. After all, this “Omelec” is inutil!

    14. this is purely a violation of the law,lawmaker’s themselves broke their created law,so who will follow and abide the law in the phillippines.money rules,and corruption is a living standard in our society….shame..shame.shame.let just wait and see them later.

    15. Bring the case to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court overturn the extension of the SOCE, then all the LP candidate who swore in will be invalicated and will have to vacate their position. That includes Robledo and Drillon and other LP candidates. The Supreme Court decision needs to be followed.

      • esteban. ang hirap pag supreme court tayo umasa. baka tapos na ang term ng mga senador at governor, etc. ay hindi pa umaaksyon ang sc. baka si last man standing robredo lang ang maapektuhan kung sakaling mag milagro ang sc to rule after 3 years. yung mga kaso ni gloria ay hindi pa rin inaaksyonan ng sc. almost 5 years na syang nasa hospital arrest

    16. The Comelec’s decision is pure baloney. The law that created that non-extendable period is an expression of the sovereign will of the people through congress. So what’s all this garbage that not extending the deadline will thwart the will of the people?

    17. Well said Mr. Tatad, i always love your column not because i am in favor of any politician and government officials. My point here is always the law, follow the law and no circumvention of the law period.

    18. Much ado about nothing, Mr. Tatad. Based on a number of SC decisions, Comelec can interpret its rules and regulations liberally. Let me remind you that even though, strictly speaking, there had been something wrong and questionable about R. Duterte’s certificate of candidacy based on Comelec’s rules and regulations, nonetheless, he was allowed to run for the presidency, and even won! This deadline extension is no big deal, and if your lawyer M. Luna deigns to file a formal complaint before the SC, I predict that he will lose his case, and will only waste time, money and resources.

      This business about Senator BBM’s protest is getting boring and tiresome. Let him and his team file their petition, and let the process proceed. BBM’s constant harping of his “fraud” claims has made him a source of jokes and laughter. The natural sense of humor of many Pinoys has been brought to the fore in respect of this issue. When BBM stated publicly (reported in PDI) that the VP seat is just being kept “warm” for him, the netizens responded by saying: yes, a toilet seat is waiting for him!

      As for your claim that: “Should the Supreme Court sustain the Comelec and confirm the extension of the SOCE deadline, President-elect Duterte might be encouraged to seriously consider his earlier “promise” to remove unwanted and unhelpful elements in government and simplify the running of government”, the answer is: Duterte would not be influenced by the SC decision on this matter to fulfill his goal of bringing about changes in the government, if not the nation. Already, as you have noted, he has changed the venue for his swearing of his oath of office. He is already “simplifying” even before the issue has been filed before the SC. And if, in time and by any means whatsoever, he can “simplify” the Court’s procedures, especially its long delays in hearing cases, he would really bring about “real and true” changes in the nation. Simplification is not stupidity, and needs to be encouraged and supported.

      As for a barangay official administering VP-elect Leni Robredo’s oath of office, the venue does not really matter. She will have an audience of supporters who will rejoice with her for having won against all odds. Catapulted from being an “unknown” to the second highest political position of the land is a major accomplishment!

      • YES! BY CHEATING!! How thick face can you guys be? Talking about toilet seats, your Robredo stinks like a sewer and the stench is starting to pervade all over the country. This pretentious bitch is trying to appear simple, when in fact she is not, what a hypocrite!!

      • “Catapulted from being an “unknown” to the second highest political position of the land is a major accomplishment!”
        ———————————

        Well, of course. By the slimmest margin yet in history, 260,000, through a most expensive campaign yet launched for a Veep, P420M. A major major accomplishment indeed!

    19. This is not a precedent. Postponement was done 2 of the past 2 elections. Precedent means it has not happened before and if this happened now, this can be use again. It has happened before so this is not a precedent. I guessed you use this word because it sounds good without really knowing what it means.

      • Magtawanan Tayo on

        Resolution 9991 says:
        One provision says:

        These rules shall apply to all national and local elections starting with the 09 May 2016 National and Local Elections.

        Since this is a new resolution, there is no precedent yet.

        Another provision says:

        The 08 June 2016 deadline shall be final and non-extendible. Submissions beyond this period shall not be accepted. COMELEC Resolutions Nos. 9849 and 9873, Minute Resolutions Nos. 13-0775 and 13-0823 are hereby repealed, insofar as they allowed the belated submission, amendment and/or correction of campaign finance disclosure statements and reports and the imposition of late penalties for the 2013 National and Local Elections.

        Comelec passed this resolution to combat belated submissions which violated previous resolutions.

        With the new extension, Comelec has reversed its own remedy for violations.

      • Yes, it has happened before which is why we have the later law (enacted after 2013) to not allow submissions beyond the deadline.