Until Comelec gets their campaign expense reports
FORMER President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and more than 400 elected officials in the last May 13, 2013 midterm polls were ordered to temporarily vacate their posts for failing to submit their financial reports to the Commission on Elections.
Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the 422 officials, including 20 members of the House of Representatives, four provincial governors and three city mayors, were ordered to leave their posts for three reasons: 1) They failed to submit their statement of contribution and expenditure (SOCE); 2) They did not personally sign the SOCE; and 3) They did not use the prescribed SOCE form.
The SOCE serves as the Comelec’s basis for determining whether candidates or parties exceeded their spending limit.
Among the prominent names identified by Brillantes were Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon Ejercito, Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino, and Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson.
Brillantes said those who did not comply with the election requirement also included a vice governor, 12 provincial board members, nine city vice mayors, 23 municipal mayors, 26 municipal vice mayors, 47 city councilors and 277 municipal councilors.
The identified officials must submit their financial reports and possibly pay an administrative fine before they are allowed to reassume their posts, Brillantes said.
“Of course, they will have to comply otherwise they will have to vacate their position. Actually, we don’t want to announce this in time for Christmas but we think it’s good for them to make their
records clean before Christmas,” he said.
The Comelec earlier warned that winning candidates who would failed to submit their financial reports will be prohibited from assuming office while losing candidates who did not submit the documents will not be allowed to run in the future elections.
The penalties for failing to file the SOCE include one to six years in prison, the removal of the right to vote, and disqualification from public office.
“Our message is for the candidates not to forget their obligation after the elections,” said Brillantes.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, however, lambasted the Comelec for “overkill.”
“OA naman ang Comelec (The Comelec is over-reacting),” Belmonte said. “Only three of the 20 congressmen were alleged not to have submitted their SOCE. The rest merely did not sign their statements and probably had their accountants sign on their behalf. That’s why I was flabbergasted.”
But Belmonte said he expected all 20 lawmakers to comply with the Comelec requirements by Monday and dismissed suggestions of a sinister reason behind Brillantes’ order.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday said his wife, Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto had filed her SOCE on June 6, ahead of the deadline, using the prescribed form.
“We followed all laws, rules and regulations. We have a certificate of compliance dated June 6 from Comelec Batangas,” the senator said.
He added that the Comelec officer of Batangas was also “shocked.”
“We reviewed just now all the documents we filed and we do not see any mistakes,” he said. Recto added that if there were any mistakes, the Comelec could have simply informed them so that these could be recti-fied.
The lawmakers named by the Comelec were Arroyo; San Jose Del Monte City Rep. Arthur Robes; Batangas (3rd District) Rep. Nelson Collantes; Antipolo City (2nd District) Rep. Romeo Acop; Camarines Sur (5th District) Rep. Sal Fortuno; North Cotabato (2nd District) Rep. Nancy Catamco; Lanao del Sur (2nd District) Rep. Pangalian Balindong. Manila (3rd District) Rep. Naida Angping; Manila (4th District) Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David; Ilocos Sur (1st District) Rep. Ronald Singson; Bataan (2nd District) Rep. Tet Garcia; Bulacan (1st District) Rep. Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado; Batangas (1st District) Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain; Batangas (4th District) Rep. Dong Mendoza; Quezon (1st District) Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga; Rizal (1st District) Rep. Joel Roy Duavit; Albay (2nd District) Rep. Al Francis Bichara; Misamis Occidental (2nd District) Henry Oaminal; and Sultan Kudarat (2nd District) Rep. Arnulfo Go.
Brillantes said that while the poll body has been somewhat relaxed in its monitoring of campaign spending in previous elections, the agency will now be stricter.
“This is the first time. In previous elections, we have not imposed this provision,” he said.
The poll chief also said the commission sent letters to Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and the House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to implement the memorandum of agree-ments they entered into and informed them of the latest decision.
Brillantes said those who file their SOCEs now will be face administrative fines but will be allowed to reassume their posts after complying with the SOCE submission. He added that all winning senators in the May 2013 elections all submitted their financial reports.
The Palace said it would respect the decision of the Comelec, which is an independent commission.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda added that all candidates were required to comply with election regulations.
Months before the May 13 polls, the Comelec announced that financial contributions and expenses would be strictly monitored.
Administrative fines from P2,000 to P60,000 can also be slapped against those who fail to comply with the filing rules.
For second or subsequent offenses, offenders will be subject to perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
The law states that every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within 30 days after the day of the election, file in duplicate with the offices of the Comelec the “full, true and itemized” statement of all contributions and expenditures in connection with the election.
Comelec Resolution 9476, promulgated in June last year, aims to regulate campaign spending and disclosure. It also created the commission’s Campaign Finance Unit (CFU) tasked to monitor, compile and analyze expenditures of candidates.
Senatorial, congressional and other local candidates registered under a political party are only authorized to spend P3 for every voter. Independent candidates without any support from any political party are only au-thorized to spend P5 for every registered voter.
Political parties and party-list groups may only spend P5 for every voter in the constituency. – With Maricel V. Cruz, Macon Ramos-Araneta and Ronald O. Reyes
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