MANILA, Philippines – Future candidates, beware: Non-compliance in the filing of statement of election contributions and expenses (SOCE) might cost you a bigger fine, or even prison time.
While Senate Bill 1694 was discussed during the hearing of the Senate committee on electoral reforms on Thursday, February 20, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) suggested that the late filing of SOCEs be made an election offense instead of an administrative offense, so stiffer penalties can be imposed.
SB 1694 was filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The bill seeks to amend Republic Act 7166 by designating to different Comelec offices where candidates could file their SOCEs. It also seeks to raise the range of administrative fine for late SOCE filing: P30,000 to P100,000, from the original P1,000 to P30,000.
"We're proposing to go back to the penalty in the Omnibus Election Code making [late filing of SOCE] an election offense," said Lente executive director Rona Ann Caritos.
In effect, late filers may be imprisoned from 1 to 6 years as penalty, if the proposal pushes through.
"It will make the candidates more liable. They would not be worried about paying administrative fines. If they would be charged with an election offense, they can be imprisoned for it," added Caritos.
Candidates, political parties, and party-list organizations are required to disclose election contributions and expenses 30 days after an election.
On Dec 12, 2013, Comelec asked 424 elected officials to vacate their posts for failing to submit on time or improperly filing their SOCEs for the 2013 midterm polls.
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.