Commission on Elections (Comelec) bent its own rules by extending the deadline for the filing of the campaign spending reports by the Liberal Party and all other political parties and candidates who ran in last month’s general elections.
The poll body, through a 4-3 vote, allowed the extension of the filing of the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) until June 30 from the previous June 8 deadline.
The commission held a marathon special session on Thursday on the letter of the Liberal Party (LP) and its standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd requesting a 14-day extension after they failed to meet the June 8 deadline.
The three dissenting votes were from Chairman Juan Andres Bautista and Commissioners Luie Tito Guia and Christian Robert Lim.
Commissioners Arthur Lim, Al Parreno, Shariff Abas and Rowena Guanzon voted to extend the filing of SOCE.
But Comelec spokesman James Jimenez clarified that Bautista modified his no-extension vote to “allow the late filing [of SOCE]but with imposition of appropriate fines and penalties.”
The Comelec ruling has also the effect of amending Republic Act (RA) 7166 or the Synchronized National and Local Elections Law, according to a recommendation earlier submitted to the en banc by Lim, chairman of the Campaign Finance Office (CFO).
In voting against the extension, Lim also cited the Omnibus Rule on Campaign Finance stating that the June deadline is “final and non-extendable.”
Guanzon said the issue was thoroughly discussed based on how the law should be interpreted, the consequences of a strict or liberal interpretation of the law and the intent of the Comelec when it issued the resolution on the filing of SOCE.
“I hope the country will have some stability now. The elections are over. We should be united as a people and pray for our country,” Guanzon said after the en banc session.
Jimenez clarified that the decision was not only limited to the LP but also covered other political parties such as the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Aksyon Demokratiko (Aksyon) and candidates who failed to submit their respective SOCE.
“We cannot avoid such frame of discussion that this is a capitulation to the pressure of one particular sector or one particular party. But what I would like to ask is for everyone to remember that this is for the benefit of everyone and that the LP is not the only one affected in this situation,” he explained.
Aside from Roxas, 15 senatorial candidates, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, 40 governors and 115 congressmen failed to file their SOCEs on time.
Jimenez said the commission has to weigh between implementation of the law and the consequences of preventing winning candidates from assuming office simply because they were not able to file their SOCE.
“Many will not be able to assume their posts because they did not file their SOCE. Problem is you will defeat essentially the sovereign will of the people because they [candidates]were voted upon. That’s what we are trying to avoid,” he added.
Jimenez pointed out that the Comelec also made the same decision in 2010 and 2013.
“The Comelec does not function in a vacuum. We have to be aware of the consequences of this decision. It will be applicable to everyone,” the official added.
Republic Act 7166 mandates candidates and political parties to submit “full, true and itemized” SOCE.
Comelec Resolution 9939 specifies that failure to submit a SOCE carries with it an administrative fine.
Under the resolution, national parties and candidates for senatorial positions will be fined P30,000 for the first offense and P60,000 for the second offense.
On the other hand, candidates for House of Representatives, city mayors and city vicemayors shall be fined P20,000 for first offense and P40,000 for the second offense, while municipal mayors, municipal vice mayors and municipal councilors shall be fined P10, 000 for first offense and P20,000 for second offense.