No reason for Comelec to reject late SOCE filing – Macalintal

MANILA, Philippines – Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Thursday, June 16, said that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should not reject the late submission of campaign spending reports by the Liberal Party (LP).

Macalintal, lead counsel of Vice President-elect Leni Robredo, said that the LP should only be penalized for submitting its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) 6 days past the June 8 deadline.

He pointed out in a couple of media interviews that there is no provision in the law that prohibits Comelec from accepting late submissions.

"Hindi puwedeng sabihin ng Comelec na ang late submission will not be accepted. Sapagkat walang kapangyarihan ang Comelec na baguhin ang batas. Wala sa batas na sinasabing ang late submission will not be allowed," he said in a TV5 interview.

(Comelec can't say that late submissions won't be accepted. Because Comelec does not have the power to change the law. There is nothing in the law that says late submissions will not be allowed.) 

The LP earlier requested a 14-day extension for the filing of SOCEs. The poll body's campaign finance office, however, recommended denying the party's request, but the en banc has yet to vote on the recommendation.

Republic Act 7166 requires all candidates, party lists, and political parties to submit their SOCEs within 30 days after election day.

Failure to file the SOCE shall merit a fine of P1,000 to P30,000 ($22 to $647) for the first offense.

Macalintal said that there is no problem with the late submission, as the law provides that a penalty will be imposed.

He said in a radio interview: "Nagtataka ako sa Comelec kung bakit i-niinsist nila na, 'Hindi na namin puwedeng tanggapin ang late submission.' That is wrong. Kasi wala naman ganoong provision sa batas."

(I'm wondering why Comelec is insisting, 'We cannot accept the late submission.' That is wrong. Because there is no such provision in the law.)

In Comelec Resolution 9991, however, the poll body said that submissions beyond June 8, 2016, "shall not be accepted."

But Macalintal said that Comelec does not have the authority to change the law and disallow late submissions.

He echoed the statement of former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr, who also said that the Comelec resolution "expanded" the provision of the law and caused confusion

Macalintal also reiterated that the LP's late submission would not prevent Robredo from assuming her post, since she has already submitted her SOCE and received a certificate of compliance.