It is utterly incredible why losing yellow presidential candidate Manuel A. Roxas 2nd and the Liberal Party missed the June 8 deadline for the filing of their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures, as required by the Omnibus Election Code and Comelec Resolution No. 9991.
Roxas, after all, is a Wharton graduate and his claimed discipline, investment banking, is one that deals with figures and their accounting up to the last centavo. The Liberal Party isn’t a fly-by-night “party list” organization, and with the backing of this Administration and big business, they can hire phalanxes of accountants, lawyers and clerks.
Such huge resources and the fact that other parties – even the smallest ones – met the deadline made the Liberal Party’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez look utterly stupid when he claimed that their failure to file the SOCE was due to “voluminous number of receipts that have to be scanned and attached”.
They and their lawyers could not have failed to read Comelec Resolution No. 9991, promulgated October 2, 2015 by the present Commission on Elections as chaired by Andres Bautista, whose Section 2, Rule 10 reads as follows:
“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COMELEC Resolutions Nos. 9849 and 9873, Minute Resolutions Nos. 13-0775 and 13-0823 are hereby repealed, insofar as they allowed the belated submission, amendment and/or correction of campaign finance disclosure statements and reports and the imposition of late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. “ (Emphasis mine.)
Their failure to meet the deadline is so serious that all their efforts, money and risks (among them being charged criminally for some violation) in running for public office could turn out all for naught: The penalty for non-filing of the SOCE, other than miniscule monetary ones, is that all of the Liberal Party’s winning candidates – including purportedly the Vice President-elect Leni Robredo – are barred from assuming office.
Robredo’s lawyer Romulo Macalintal was quick to claim that the penalty could not be imposed on his client, as she filed her SOCE on time. Macalintal, of course, deliberately ignores Section 5, Rule 10 of the Comelec’s Resolution NO. 9991.
“Effect of Failure to File Statement – Persons elected to any public office shall not enter upon the duties of their office until they have filed their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures with the relevant Schedules and supporting documents, in accordance with the formal requirements set by these Rules.
The same prohibition shall apply if the party which nominated the winning candidate had failed to file its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures as required herein within thirty (30) days from the conduct of election.” (Emphasis mine.)
Understandably striving to prove he deserves his reportedly astronomical lawyer’s fees (which the bus-riding Robredo astonishingly could afford), Macalintal claimed that Roxas and Liberal Party’s failure to file their SOCE is a “simple case of late-filing and not considered as non-filing.” Again, the law for Macalintal is only what is favorable to his client. Let me repeat the Comelec resolution quoted above:
“The 08 June 2016 deadline shall be final and non-extendible. Submissions beyond this period shall not be accepted.”
That obviously means that under the Comelec rules, one’s failure to file the SOCE on time means it can never be filed: Who would receive the SOCE?
The last desperate claim by Robredo’s lawyer is one often made by attorneys when they run out of legal arguments. He claims that the “will of the people cannot be set aside,” a very ridiculous argument to be made by a lawyer, since the basic pillar of a system of rule of law precisely is that the law is the law, no matter what opinion surveys or even elections say.
Macalintal also makes another preposterous claim: That if Robredo is not allowed to assume office because of the LP’s failure to file its SOCE, then “Senators-elect Frank Drilon, Joel Villanueva, Ralph Recto and Leila de Lima and all winning governors, mayors and other local elective officials nominated by LP cannot assume their respective offices despite their having filed their own individual SOCEs.”
Why should they be exempted from the law, just because they are many, and when are there provisions that allow the runners-up to replace them?
But why on earth would the Liberal Party commit such a gross mistake of not filing its SOCE on time, which risks its winning candidates’ disqualification from assuming their posts, or at least a long delay if the Supreme Court is asked to rule on the issue?
There can only be two explanations, given the huge resources of the Liberal Party.
First, the Liberal Party’s desperation to remain in power and put a Plan B in place quickly for Robredo to win as vice president by hook or by crook, has led it to illegally use gargantuan amounts of government funds for the candidacies of Robredo and the party’s senators, which it cannot conceal now.
How could Robredo, really an unknown congresswoman (her late husband Jesse, except in the yellows’ imagination, had not become a national figure) outside Aquino’s and NGO’s circles, have spent P423 million in her campaign, more than her rivals did, such as Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. (with his family’s vaunted billions) and Alan Peter Cayetano (who donated P70 million to Duterte)?
That candidates’ real expenditures, as any political operator would know, are two to four times more what they report, which represent only those they cannot conceal, such as expenses for TV and radio advertising.
P1 billion, not P423 million
Robredo’s real expenditures therefore would have been easily P1 billion. Had she managed to create a groundswell of grassroots financial support to raise this kind of money, and set up the mechanism for this (such as donations, made through the cellphone)? No.
Are there magnates known to be supporting her? None. The only source of such huge spending would have been government funds, and we owe it to future generations – if we really want to have a democratic system – to find out how the Liberal Party did this.
It would have been easy for the Liberal Party to conceal its use of government funds if it had won the Presidency, since in that case big businessmen could be asked to claim that they were the major donors, since they would want to be in the good graces of a President who would rule for six years.
But it lost the presidency, and many big businessmen who were close to President Aquino incredibly have been on extended business trips abroad since a month before the elections and have not yet returned.
In Robredo’s case, Aquino managed to order his sister Kris to claim she donated P30 million to her campaign, with older sister Viel agreeing only to claim P1 million in donations.
The Liberal Party had failed to file its SOCE on time, as it had not been able to get businessmen to claim they were the “donors,” not the Administration using taxpayers’ money. It faced a rock and a hard place, and chose the hard place, calculating that the Comelec, whose members Aquino appointed, would rule in its favor.
A second explanation going around now is that Roxas has suddenly made himself unavailable to help the Liberal Party in completing its SOCEs. Roxas purportedly has been very angry when he found out that Party leaders – Aquino, Drilon and Abad – had junked him, and had instead thrown its resources, especially government funds, into Robredo’s campaign. He is getting back at the party that betrayed him.
After all, he lost, and therefore has no post the Comelec could bar him from assuming, and the maximum penalty for non-filing of his SOCE is peanuts for him, less what it would cost him to host a dinner for friends – P30,000.
If that explanation is accurate, Roxas without intending to, may have made his most important contribution to our Republic in his 23 years in “public service.”
This SOCE issue could lead to revelations on how a ruling party used government funds to try to perpetuate itself in power. At last, if we can uncover the truth, we as a nation would be on our way toward real democracy, when candidates’ qualifications, instead of money or the state apparatus, determine who would be our leaders.