• Speaker clears 10 members over campaign expenses docs fiasco

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    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. has cleared half of his 20 colleagues over the alleged faulty filing of their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) before the poll body—an offense that warrants removal from office per the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

    Belmonte noted that of the 20 legislators, 10 of them were already able to secure certificate of compliance from the Comelec namely: Reps. Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur, Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa City, Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato, Ma. Zenaida Angping of Manila, Sonny Collantes of Batangas, Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan, Arthur Robes of Bulacan, Salvio Fortuno of Camarines Sur, Arnulfo Go of Sultan Kudarat and Henry Oaminal of Misamis Occidental.

    “What turned out to be a problem is that some of them used the form they had been using in the past. Unfortunately, the Comelec representatives accepted them, the incorrect form. Now, these 10 have [accomplished]the new form and gotten the certificates of compliance,” Belmonte told reporters in a chance interview.

    Of the 10 cleared by Belmonte, seven of them nevertheless paid an administrative fee worth P8,000 each for the initial faulty filing of their respective SOCE.

    Under the new Comelec rules per Belmonte, the representatives of lawmakers such as their accountants are not allowed to sign the SOCE on behalf of the candidate without an authorization. The authorization form is a document separate from the SOCE.

    “Everybody here did not get that form, they just got the form from Comelec and what was given to them was the one they used,” Belmonte argued.

    The 20 lawmakers are part of the 422 officials who were earlier identified by the Comelec as those who have submitted faulty SOCE documents to the Comelec and therefore, should vacate their post per Comelec Commissioner and lawyer, Sixto Brillantes, Jr.

    As a result, Belmonte checked up on the House ranks and issued an ultimatum to his colleagues to iron out the kinks in their respective SOCE or vacate their post December 16, Monday.

    But on Tuesday, Belmonte softened his stance and pronounced that it is not within his power as the Speaker to remove his colleagues over the faulty filing of SOCE.

    “I don’t think I have that power to order anybody to vacate their position. I will not ask anyone to vacate,” Belmonte surmised.

    “Some people are saying Comelec should have contacted them [lawmakers]individually. My point really is this could have been settled between the individual congressman and Comelec. No need to involve the Speaker’s office,” Belmonte added.

    Other legislators who were included in the 20 is former President Gloria Arroyo who is under hospital detention in Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) for plunder charges. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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