MANILA, Philippines – In an unprecedented move, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) tagged nearly 600 candidates “for perpetual disqualification” after they failed to report their campaign expenses in two previous polls.
It was not clear if this would be immediately executory.
The Comelec on Friday, October 23, released the names of 597 candidates who failed to submit their statements of contributions and expenditures (SOCEs) in two or more previous elections.
The Comelec Campaign Finance Unit added the following remarks beside all their names: “For perpetual disqualification to hold public office.”
The Campaign Finance Unit labeled each tally as a “list of candidates subject to perpetual disqualification due to 2nd and 3rd failure to file SOCE.”
Prominent names “for perpetual disqualification” include former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Nur Misuari, former Caloocan City mayor Macario Asistio Jr, and former Quezon City congressman Ismael “Chuck” Mathay III.
The recently uploaded lists didn't include candidates for national positions.
'First time' for Comelec
Below is the breakdown of candidates “for perpetual disqualification,” as tabulated by Rappler:
Rappler, as of posting time, is still trying to reach the Comelec’s Campaign Finance Unit Head, Commissioner Christian Lim, to clarify if the “perpetual disqualification” is immediately executory.
In a media briefing on October 6, Lim explained that 2015 is “the first time” that the Comelec promulgated rules on filing petitions for disqualification over campaign expenses. “Before, we never had any rules on that,” he said.
Bets to get 'due process'
Comelec Resolution 9991, or the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance promulgated on October 2, explains when and how to file petitions for disqualification over campaign expenses.
Resolution 9991 said the Campaign Finance Office, motu proprio or on its own, “may file petitions to disqualify” a candidate.
One of the grounds for disqualification is having “failed to submit his statement of contributions and expenditures in relation to at least two elections, in which case the penalty shall be perpetual disqualification to hold public office,” according to Rule 13 of Resolution 9991.
The failures to be submit SOCEs don't need to be in consecutive elections. For example, candidates could have failed to submit their SOCEs in 2007 and 2013, but complied with this requirement in 2010.
Lim earlier told reporters that petitioned candidates will be given “due process.”
In recent years under its Campaign Finance Unit, the Comelec has boosted its drive to monitor campaign expenses. (READ: Comelec taps council vs elections money laundering)
The Comelec, in fact, earlier ordered then Laguna governor Emilio Ramon Ejercito to step down after he exceeded the campaign expenses allowed by law. The Supreme Court later upheld Ejercito’s disqualification.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.