MANILA, Philippines – Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr said on Wednesday, June 15, that the law does not prohibit late filing of campaign spending reports.
This comes after the Liberal Party (LP) and its presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II were criticized for missing the June 8 deadline for filing their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).
The LP submitted its SOCE 6 days late, while Roxas has yet to submit his. (READ: UNA: Don’t give ‘special treatment’ to Roxas, LP in SOCE filing)
In a series of tweets, Brillantes explained that the provision on the filing of SOCEs under Republic Act 7166 “has been expanded” by Comelec Resolution 9991, “thereby creating some form of confusion” in its enforcement.
Clarification on SOCE Part 3/5 pic.twitter.com/LjjNqmYWnp— Sixto Brillantes Jr. (@ChairBrillantes) June 15, 2016
For instance, Brillantes said “there is nothing in the law that prohibits late filing beyond the 30-day period from election day.” But Rule 10 of Comelec Resolution 9991 states that submissions beyond the June 8 deadline “shall not be accepted.”
Brillantes emphasized that a winning candidate can assume office “only after the filing of his SOCE, which could be effected even beyond the 30-day period mandated by law.”
“It would be absurd to apply the Comelec rule that when the SOCE is not filed on time, Comelec can refuse acceptance of the same, thereby forever preventing the elected official from performing his/her duties,” he said.
Clarification on SOCE Part 4/5 pic.twitter.com/mVbFNAmzjZ— Sixto Brillantes Jr. (@ChairBrillantes) June 15, 2016
The “more equitable interpretation”, he noted, is that the Comelec’s acceptance of SOCEs “should be ministerial, whether defective, incomplete or late.” Penalties for these should be imposed “only after due audit, review, and investigation,” he continued.
“The Comelec cannot arrogate unto itself the power to impose the heavier penalty of disallowing an elected official from entering the duties of his office by simply refusing to accept the SOCEs filed beyond the 30-day period mandated by law,” Brillantes argued.
He added that the law “imposes a mere administrative fine” for failure to file a SOCE, in addition to a winning candidate not being allowed to assume office. “It is inequitable to impose the same penalty for non-filing to candidates who file their SOCEs beyond the 30-day period,” he said.
Brillantes also noted that “nowhere in the law is there a requirement for personal filing.” Under Comelec Resolution 9991, filing of SOCEs must be done in person or through duly authorized representatives. It also disallowed submissions via mail or courier.
Clarification on SOCE Part 5/5 pic.twitter.com/7dURVw9e5g— Sixto Brillantes Jr. (@ChairBrillantes) June 15, 2016
Only party treasurer ‘liable’
As for non-compliant political parties, Brillantes said the party treasurer “should be the one penalized.”
Besides paying the administrative fine in case of non-filing, the treasurer would be “disallowed from entering the duties of his office if he himself is an elected official [or] winning candidate.”
“It would be absurd to interpret the provision of law on [the] failure of the political party to file SOCE to be penalizing all winning candidates nominated by the said political party,” he said.
Under Comelec Resolution 9991, winning bets cannot assume office not only if he or she has not filed a SOCE but also if the political party that nominated him or her failed to file its SOCE. The poll body cited Section 14 of RA 7166 as basis.
Vice President-elect Leni Robredo ran under the LP banner in the 2016 polls, as well as 5 winning senators.
Finally, while Brillantes agreed that the Comelec should follow the law, he said its interpretation must not be expanded. “Rather, logic and reason, fairness and equity should always be applied.”
Brillantes was Comelec chairman from 2011 to 2015. He was succeeded by Andres Bautista.
The Comelec on Thursday, June 16, will decide on the LP’s request to extend the SOCE filing period by 14 days.
Here are the first two parts of Brillantes’ tweets, citing the provision on SOCE filing in Section 14 of Republic Act 7166 and the rules set in Comelec Resolution 9991 for the May 2016 polls.
Clarification on SOCE 1/5 pic.twitter.com/vBqFL009XN— Sixto Brillantes Jr. (@ChairBrillantes) June 15, 2016
Clarification on SOCE Part 2/5 pic.twitter.com/6INiDoan6t— Sixto Brillantes Jr. (@ChairBrillantes) June 15, 2016