Comelec

Comelec junks over 1,000 unresolved overspending cases from 2010, 2013

Dwight de Leon
Comelec junks over 1,000 unresolved overspending cases from 2010, 2013

CHIEF. Chairman George Garcia conducts an ocular inspection of the property that will be the site of the proposed Comelec building complex in Pasay City on September 5, 2022.

Rappler

(2ND UPDATE) The cases date back to the 2010 and 2013 elections, highlighting the poll body's legal backlogs. The Comelec says it is dismissing the petitions to uphold the right of the accused to the speedy disposition of cases.

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, January 4, dismissed a total of 1,024 unresolved petitions against individuals who allegedly overspent campaign funds in the 2010 and 2013 elections, a decision that would unclog the poll body’s dockets.

In deciding, the Comelec cited a Supreme Court ruling that doubled down on the constitutional right of the accused to the speedy disposition of cases.

The Comelec junked 926 petitions which were pending preliminary investigation and resolution, and 98 motions for reconsideration which were not acted upon by the en banc in the past.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia – who was a seasoned private election lawyer prior to his poll body stint – said he was not a legal counsel to any politician involved in the petitions dismissed.

The list of dismissed cases can be accessed below:

Garcia conceded that the poll body in the past failed to expeditiously resolve such cases.

“We have to accept and admit that there were cases which were left unresolved for many years. So that we won’t be accused of violating the constitutional right of the accused,” he said.

What the SC ruling says

In issuing the resolution, the Comelec cited Peñas vs Comelec, a 2022 Supreme Court ruling that lamented the poll body’s failure to resolve the overspending case against Davao del Sur politician Joseph Peñas.

In 2010, Peñas ran for Digos City mayor and won, but four years later, the Comelec’s campaign finance unit filed a complaint against him for alleged violation of the Omnibus Election Code provision on election overspending.

In 2018, the Comelec en banc found probable cause to hold Peñas for trial. When Penas asked the Comelec to reconsider, it ook the Comelec another two years to deny his plea.

Peñas subsequently ran to the Supreme Court, alleging that the Comelec incurred inordinate delay in resolving the complaint, and insisting that he immediately tried to rectify errors in his statement of contributions and campaign expenditures (SOCE).

The High Court sided with Penas, and concluded that the Comelec was guilty of inordinate delay that put the petitioners at a disadvantage by “living under a cloud of anxiety, suspicion, and often hostility,” due to the “uncertainties of his potential criminal case.”

“Why the preliminary investigation lasted for an unreasonable period of time is clearly unfathomable considering the simplicity of the issue, that there is only one respondent charged in the complaint, and the evidence involved here was not at all voluminous,” the Supreme Court ruling read.

“The six-year period it took to resolve the complaint grossly prejudiced petitioner,” it added. “There is also no legitimate avenue to invoke one’s right to a speedy disposition of his case before the Comelec.”

The Comelec chief on Tuesday promised to fast-track the resolution of cases against elective aspirants, especially those who will be accused of being nuisance candidates.

Comelec junks over 1,000 unresolved overspending cases from 2010, 2013

“When the certificates of candidacies are filed in 2024, within the same year, we will resolve all cases on nuisance candidates, because we do not want us in the Comelec to be the ones to suffer,” Garcia guaranteed. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers the House of Representatives and the Commission on Elections for Rappler. Previously, he wrote stories on local government units.