New reso cancels out Comelec order for pols to vacate posts
MANILA, Philippines – An election lawyer asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to recall its order asking 424 local officials to vacate their posts for deficiencies in their statement of election contributions and expenses (SOCE).
Romulo Macalintal said on Wednesday, December 18, that a resolution the poll body recently issued provides "no more reason or basis to cite Section 14 of Republic Act 7166 as the ground to order these elected officials to vacate their elective positions."
The 424 officials, including 20 congressmen, were ordered to leave their office for failing to submit on time, not using the prescribed SOCE form, or not personally signing their SOCEs for the 2013 midterm polls last May.
Section 14 of RA 7166 states that, "No person elected to any public office shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required."
All candidates, winning or losing, should submit their SOCEs within 30 days after the election. Those who fail to file on time will be meted an administrative fine ranging from P1,000 to P30,000, according to Comelec's discretion.
However, Comelec Resolution No. 9834, promulgated on Tuesday, December 17, clarified that the late penalty it would impose on erring officials as per its Minute Resolution No. 13-0823 "does not constitute the administrative fine" as stated in the law.
The payment of late penalty by the candidates "does not make him/her administratively liable for violation of Section 14," said the same resolution.
Because of this, Macalintal said, "There is no more 'violation of the SOCE rules'... which could be the basis to remove or order an elected official to vacate his post," Macalintal said.
After recalling such order, Macalintal continued, "the Comelec should first notify the concerned officials, including all the losing candidates, of whatever deficiencies discovered in their respective SOCEs."
"After all, it is very clear in Comelec Minute Resolution No. 13-0823 that the candidates should have been first advised of the alleged defects in their SOCEs on or before June 29, 2013," but due to delays in the transmittal of campaign finance documents from the field, not all candidates were duly informed.
Macalintal also suggested that Comelec remove from the list of erring candidates those "whose only 'fault' was that their SOCEs were not in [Comelec's] 'prescribed form,'" since the law does not provide for one.
He noted that the Comelec stands to earn around P3 million, or P7,200 in average per erring official, based on its "scale of penalties" under Minute Resolution No. 13-0823.
"And more will come when Comelec tackles the thousands of candidates who lost in the 2013 polls who are likewise subject to the SOCE requirements," added Macalintal.
Another seasoned election lawyer previously interviewed by Rappler said that Comelec "has gone overboard" in issuing the order. – Rappler.com