Supreme Court of the Philippines

Supreme Court rules: Comelec cannot extend deadline for SOCE submission

Jairo Bolledo

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Supreme Court rules: Comelec cannot extend deadline for SOCE submission

HIGH COURT. The Supreme Court building in Padre Faura, Manila.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The SC en banc says the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it extended the SOCE deadline. It also amounts to 'usurpation of legislative power.'

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC), in its latest decision, ruled that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot extend the deadline for submission by candidates of their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).

In a 19-page decision, the High Court’s en banc said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it extended the SOCE deadline and “exempted candidates and political parties from administrative liabilities in violation of the clear language of the law and legislative intent.”

Associate Justice Mario Lopez penned the ruling, while 14 other justices, including Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, concurred. The decision had been promulgated on October 5, 2021, but was only publicized on Tuesday, June 6.

Under section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166 or the Synchronized Elections Law, candidates are required to file their “full, true and itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures in connection with the election” within 30 days of the polls.

The SC also voided the Comelec resolution, which extended the SOCE submission after the 2016 elections:

“FOR THESE REASONS, the Commission on Elections Resolution No. 10147 is declared void for being repugnant to the law. Applying the doctrine of operative fact, however, the Statements of Contributions and Expenditures for the May 9, 2016 national and local elections that were submitted on or before June 30, 2016 are deemed timely filed.”

The case stemmed from a petition for certiorari – used to review a prior decision of a body – filed by Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) against the poll body. PDP-Laban challenged the Comelec’s Resolution No. 10147, which extended the filing of SOCEs until June 30, 2016.

PDP-Laban argued that the Comelec exceeded its limits and violated section 14 of RA 7166 due to the said order.

The ruling

In its decision, the High Tribunal said it agreed with PDP-Laban’s position that the language in RA 7166’s section 14 is not ambiguous, and that SOCEs must be filed within 30 days after the latest polls. According to the SC, contrary to the Comelec’s interpretation, the commas separating the phrase “within thirty (30) days after the day of the election” in section 14 do not make the SOCE submission extendible.

“A comma is a punctuation mark used to divide a sentence, but it does not introduce a new idea. As such, the separated phrase must relate to the same subject matter which precedes it,” the High Court said.

The SC said the poll body’s interpretation of the phrase “until he has filed the statement of
contributions and expenditures herein required” in RA 7166 as one that makes the 30-day period extendible is incorrect. The High Court said the words “herein required” discussed the two-fold duty of the bets and political parties to submit their SOCES within the required period.

In addition, the High Tribunal also said the Comelec’s extension of the SOCE submission “amounts to usurpation of legislative power.”

“The COMELEC likewise cannot conveniently invoke the exigency of public service to justify its actions. The COMELEC’s task is to administer and not to interpret the election laws. At most, the COMELEC can only provide details to implement the statute but not to supplant the expressed provisions of the law,” the High Court explained. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.