Comelec errs in SOCE deficiency of 29 politicians
MANILA, Philippines – It turns out, they beat the poll body's deadline after all.
At least 29 local officials, whom the Commission on Elections (Comelec) earlier wanted to remove from their posts for supposedly failing to report their campaign expenditures on time, proved to have submitted the documents in June.
Some of these officials blamed the Comelec's record-keeping system for the misunderstanding.
According to documents the poll body uploaded to its website on December 19 and 23, these 29 officials were noted to have complied in June, within the 30-day period of filing after the May 13 elections.
On December 12, Comelec asked the 424 elected officials to vacate their posts for failing to submit on time or improperly filing their statements of election contributions and expenses (SOCE) for the 2013 midterm polls.
The 29 who submitted their reports on time included 4 district representatives:
- Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson (fully complied as of June 11)
- Bulacan Rep. Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado (fully complied as of June 5)
- North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco (fully complied as of June 13)
- Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong (fully complied as of June 11)
They also included Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson, Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino, and Mayor Joseph Tan of Santiago City, Isabela.
Aside from them, 86 of those initially listed with SOCE deficiencies had been deemed fully compliant before the Christmas break. They include 12 congressmen and 74 local officials.
Republic Act 7166 requires all candidates, winning or losing, to submit their SOCEs 30 days after the polls. In seeking to remove the 424 officials from their posts, Comelec cited Section 14 of the law, which states: "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."
Seasoned election lawyer George Garcia expressed their objection to Comelec's move, saying that its order is beyond its jurisdiction.
Another lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, also noted that a recent resolution that the Comelec promulgated to clarify matters regarding late penalties "cancels out" its own order for officials to leave their posts.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, herself a former election lawyer, said the poll body could not remove elected officials with just a memorandum. It should have filed quo warranto proceedings against the negligent officials. – Rappler.com